The impact of play on teaching and learning

Change comes from action. Action comes from doing. And doing helps us learn. The power of learning through ‘doing’ or ‘play’ by taking part in hands-on, practical activities should never be underestimated, regardless of whether we’re children or adults.

Children in classroom - global month of play

However, the sad fact is approximately 95 per cent of five-year-olds will test as creative geniuses, but this dramatically decreases to just 10 per cent by the age of 15. In addition to this, across the world, 64 per cent of parents believe their children have fewer opportunities to play than they did as children themselves. Whether for reasons of safety (51 per cent of parents agree they would like their children to play outside but are too worried about their safety) or growing pressures on children (one in five say they are “too busy”), it’s clear that more needs to be done to help children retain creativity, and explore and learn about the world through play.

It’s no secret that kinaesthetic learning produces learning outcomes that are more easily retained in our long-term memory. Of course, everyone learns differently but I can personally recall more lessons at school when I was actively taking part in something – from role play in drama and experiments in science, to singing maths equations and understanding history on school excursions. The impact of this type of learning is endless. It immerses children into topics and subjects and gives them the freedom and exploration to get hands-on, and build various skills including resilience, teamwork and problem-solving.

This way of learning is gathering momentum too. Throughout this month, many iconic brands are supporting the importance of play including IKEA, The LEGO Foundation, Unilever’s Persil and OMO and National Geographic. All of these organisations have announced their commitment to help combat the erosion of play by establishing the ‘Global Month of Play’.

Child in field - global month of play

So, what is it?

The Global Month of Play aims to support schools, communities and parents with play-based activities that give children the opportunities to develop skills and learn about different concepts through hands-on activities. It pledges to reach over three million children in more than 116 countries, with activities taking place in more than 26,000 classrooms to engage and excite our future generation.

Each brand is hosting its own activities –

  • IKEA: Let’s Play for Change Campaign

This challenge has been designed for children, by children and encourages participants all over the world draw the soft toy of their dreams. Six of the most unique drawings will then be turned into real soft toys and sold in IKEA stores next year, and the full purchase price of each toy will be donated to campaigns supporting children’s rights to play and develop

  • The LEGO Foundation: World Children’s Day

The LEGO Group and LEGO Foundation have teamed up to introduce the ‘Build the Change’ events, where children across Mexico, the UK, China, South Africa and Denmark will build their dream school out of LEGO® bricks. All of these ideas and learnings will then be documented and handed to world leaders at the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2019

  • Dirt is Good (Persil and OMO): Outdoor Classroom Day

To inspire and celebrate outdoor learning, thousands of schools around the world will take lessons outside and prioritise playtime, sending a message of how learning outside of the classroom engages and excites children in spectacular ways

  • National Geographic: Play Made Me This Way

To celebrate the impact play has on our lives, National Geographic is producing a series of videos featuring the stories of a number of extraordinary individuals. These memories will unravel how play has had life-changing impacts on people as they’ve grown up. The first video of the series will feature National Geographic Explorer Aaron Huey and his eight-year-old son, the youngest published photographer in National Geographic magazine at the age of four.

We’re already half way through the month, and it’s clear that there are a lot of amazing things happening. But it shouldn’t be limited to just one month of the year. Learning through play clearly has its benefits and this campaign is a great way to kick-start the many opportunities for children across the world, not only creating a fun atmosphere for children to learn in but helping them to become well-rounded, curious-minded, imaginative and creative individuals that tomorrow’s society needs.


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