Play is the Answer: Make Room for Play

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Many years ago, Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist who spent most of his life studying children and how they learn, said:

Play is the answer to the question, how does anything new ever come about? ~ Jean Piaget

The playing child is a learning child. We need to make room for play in the lives of children. I would also suggest that early learning teachers should learn through play. When we play we learn.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. ~ George Bernard Shaw

This quote is my new mantra as I embrace my place as an elder in early learning. I never want to stop playing. It is through play that I feel energized, connected and expressive. It helps me think. Play helps children think too. When children are engaged in pretend play they think before they act, which ultimately will lead them into the direction of abstract thought.

I Spy

Looking at the child peering from her hiding place, I can imagine what she is thinking. Was she observing the other children playing and planning her next move? I know the child’s teacher, I know that room was made for children to play. Do you make room for children’s play?

No room for play

I recently visited an early learning centre. In one of the rooms a big table dominated the small classroom and I observed the children playing in a tight corner. How would the play change if there was more room? Would you label this play as free? I see it as constricted. Free play is such an interesting term. What does play need in order for it to be considered free?

Most of the best opportunities for achievement lie in the domain of free play, with access to varied materials. ~ Margaret McMillan

Materials … open-ended loose parts will support play that is free and full of learning. Using open-ended materials gives children freedom. A simple length of fabric can be a river or a cape. It can be a cloth to cover the dolls or the table. It can be a veil or a cover for a fort or a den. I am inspired by the possibilities inherent in these rainbow scarves from Louise Kool and Galt.

Rainbow Scarves

For me they are the epitome of open-endedness. If you would like to make room for these materials in the play experiences of children, all you have to do is comment on the blog with your ideas about play. How do you make the time and space for play and which materials do you use to support the development of the playful and learning child. I will draw for a winner who will receive their own set of these colourful scarves that will encourage imagination and creativity. My friends at Louise Kool also have a special offer for readers of this blog. All you have to do when you order the product is to mention this blog and you will receive a 25% discount on the scarves. I look forward to your comments and if you do receive or buy the rainbow scarves please post some photos on my Facebook page, Technology Rich Inquiry Based of playful learning; children and adults engaged with these wonderful open-ended materials.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

18 thoughts on “Play is the Answer: Make Room for Play

  1. Free play is essential – it is how children learn to think creatively, make plans and decisions and engage with the world around them. “Play is the work of childhood”and we need to protect it


    • Play with open ended materials offers a wide range of possibilities in the use of their imagination, creativity. It enhances their all areas of development ! It offers a form of art and freedom of expression!


  2. Many, many years ago when I was taking the ECE program we were talking about open ended materials and questions. How a piece of plastic pizza becomes a piece of plastic pizza in play but how a jar of corks can be soup, a cake, money, magic coins etc. This has been at the base of my thinking and my work through all of my years in childcare. Seeing these ideas take front stage now makes me want to jump for joy. I am so grateful for the pedagogical direction the ministry of education is supporting in childcare. I have experienced so many changes and I believe we are closer now, than we have ever been, to really getting it. Excited to still be a part of this journey.


  3. Play is paradoxical. It is serious, real and not real, apparently purposeless and yet essential to development.
    Children do not play in order to learn, although they are learning while they are playing.


  4. I have an open space with only couches in the room allowing me and my boys to rough play together. Sometimes this includes pillows or just our body’s. Also, ive seen them collect pillows, blankets, and anything they can find to build forts. Reading your post is a reminder that i need to join them in their play and learning more often. Thank you!


  5. The child’s imagination and creativity with the loose parts I provide in a provocation continually surprise me in the many ways they use those materials, ways I would have never thought of. Sit back, observe, and follow their leads!


  6. A variety of loose parts/materials allows for a variety of play – blocks, material, sticks, magnets, and so on. What strikes me when I sit with a group of kiddos as they play is their conversation – rich in imagination and creativity. Students who might otherwise be reluctant to share in larger group settings are more apt to be vocally engaged with friends in these more intimate groups.


  7. Allowing children the opportunity to explore, experience-PLAY with loose parts develops creative, competent, and capable people. THIS is How Learning Happens. All we, as adults have to do is observe and continue the momentum.


  8. To support play in my Prekindergarten program I strive to provide both open-ended materials, including a variety of loose parts, and time. Ensuring large blocks of time to play is sometimes hard to achieve but important to ensure children are able to both establish their play scenarios and then engage in them.


  9. Free play costs very little ,Mostly requiring space opportunity and time. By providing a variety of open ended objects, play is limited by interruptions and imagination. The cost of not providing true free play is high, far to high! Free play produces thinkers limited and controlled play produces followers.


  10. Hi, just want you to know that I enjoy your thought-provoking blog posts. I am learning to allow more freedom in play by not having a personal agenda. I like to put out materials in an inviting way and see what the children do with them.


  11. The program I work in has a lot of “stuff” that we have to do with the kids. All of it is good, but it takes away from the main event of play. How can we say that a program has a play based philosophy if we don’t allow the children a block of time every single day to just play?? I am trying to add more loose parts to my classroom environment. I would love to win the rainbow scarves to add to my classroom!


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