The Importance of Playfulness in Children and their Teachers

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D., RECE.

Do you like being silly? For me, one of the greatest joys in life is being silly with children. It is also a common trait that I have with many of my professional friends. Being silly is being playful. Reflecting on the playfulness of children while thinking about our own playfulness with professional friends, is an example of a parallel process at play. It is an opportunity to see connections and relationships that deepen reflection. When I think about my legacy as an early childhood educator, I want to be remembered as a passionate proponent and enabler of children’s play. However, if I am also remembered as being playfully silly, I am good with that!

I love observing my grandchildren play with loose parts. Here, while playing with a collection of beautiful stuff, Reese starts off serious and focused. Eventually, she becomes silly, and laughter ensues. I am happy to take on the role of silly play partner with my grandchildren. I believe that the more playful I am, the more playful they will be. What do you think? Are aspects of teachers’ playfulness related to higher levels of playfulness in children? There is research suggesting that if teachers’ playfulness is promoted it can lead to better teacher–child playful interactions which enhances children’s playfulness (Pinchover, 2017). The teacher plays a significant role in supporting children’s play. Does a playful pedagogical approach require knowing in our bones what it is like to play with our friends? I believe it does and I am grateful to my professional friends like Gill and Cindy for being willing, able and often silly play partners!

Playfulness is the disposition to engage in play. This personality trait exists within and is expressed over our lifespan. Are you a playful early childhood educator? If you aren’t, it is never too late to become more playful. Playfulness is usually considered a personal trait, but playful behaviours are skills that can be acquired and honed. A teacher who knows how to act playfully by joking, teasing, clowning, and acting silly is more likely to facilitate playfulness in children (Pinchover, 2017). I invite you to answer these questions to enter into a parallel process of reflecting on play.

  • Does being more spontaneous in practice allow teachers to concentrate more on play than managing children’s behaviours?
  • When a teacher is playful does it give children more opportunities to be playful?
  • When you embody a playful disposition would the need to manage behaviour be reduced?
  • What are your experiences with acting silly with children?

Silliness is defined as childlike behaviour. Silly facial expressions have been found to help young children solve conflicts and cope with stressful situations like transitions. Silliness is a salient behaviour easy for children to copy and incorporate in their own playfulness (Pinchover, 2017). Being in a state of silliness with your professional friends is to cultivate your playfulness. It can have impact on children! I would love to hear your thoughts about silliness and playfulness. Stay tuned for my new book with Redleaf Press on friendships in early childhood education. In the meantime, get your sillies out!

One thought on “The Importance of Playfulness in Children and their Teachers

  1. Taking “silly” selfies with children. They love when the opportunity arises and we can really “ham” around!


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