On Feb. 5, Mora Elementary kindergartners participated in Global School Play Day along with over 560,000 other students from around the world. Global School Play Day is a movement started by educators to give kids a day for unstructured play time. Mora Elementary kindergarten teacher Mrs. Anna Verdon has been a strong advocate of this movement for the past three years. 

A few years ago, Mrs. Verdon came across an online post discussing Global School Play Day, and she said, “All my early childhood instincts agreed with the idea — kids need to play more.” So in 2018 she signed her class up and they joined the Global School Play Day movement. It was such a success, Mrs. Verdon decided to participate every year, and for the last two years the rest of the kindergarten teachers at Mora Elementary have followed suit. 

The point to Global School Play Day is to allow children supervised, but unstructured, play time. This means while they are being watched by adults in case there is a need for one of them to step in, the play comes from the students. They get to choose what and how to play, and who gets to play with them. The teachers don’t give suggestions or tell them how to do it the “right” way. They allow the children to experiment and be creative, and try to figure out solutions on their own when problems arise. The only discouragement is the use of battery operated toys or electronics. This allows for more self-directed play and creative thinking, as well as more social interactions between peers. 

Indeed there is plenty of research out there to support the idea that kids need time to play in order for their development — including playtime that doesn’t involve guidance from adults. 

According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills.”

Another advantage of play is kids are still learning, it just doesn’t feel like it to them. At the end of the day, Mrs. Verdon helps them understand this by relating their play to what they’ve learned. She explains how they’ve used numbers and letters in their games, or science and math when they build ramps, fine motor skills when using legos, and social skills such as sharing, taking turns, working together and resolving disagreements. 

The students certainly enjoyed their day, and had the opportunity to play with toys they don’t use all the time at home. 

“I liked giving everybody the hearts,” said kindergartner Hartlee Strom, who spent the afternoon drawing, cutting and coloring paper hearts to give to her classmates and teachers (as well as the guest writer visiting their class). 

“I really liked the water beads,” said Lucy Schultz, and Agnes Carda added, “I had fun making things for people.” 

Parent and community response has also been positive. 

“Mrs. Spartz (Mora Elementary Principal) has been really supportive, and I let parents know ahead of time what we would be doing. Some checked out the website, and they were all really positive and thought it was a good idea,” said Mrs. Verdon.

Global School Play Day is open to public schools, private schools and homeschooling families. Their goal is to have 1 million students participating in 2021. For more information or to sign up for next year’s date, visit www.globalschoolplayday.com.

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