We've spent lots of time recently thinking critically about how our EYFS works. We've especially been looking at how to encourage high levels of engagement to make sure learning is maximised. You may have noticed we've shared some blogs and quotes recently about play - for example this blog by Teacher Tom.
In trying to help us think more clearly about this we began to try to develop a basic definition of play. This would help us more clearly create opportunities and support our children to learn through play.
In his blog, 'The Value of Play 1: The Definition of Play gives Insights' Peter Gray sums up his definition of play by suggesting 5 characteristics, based on other people who have studied the subject before him.
Unpicking our panicked questions required us to remind ourselves that play comes in many different forms. We all know that children play with building blocks and that pretending to cook food in a home corner is also play. When we use board games we say "We're playing a game!" and we have all heard children shout about "playing" football or tag. So it's helpful, when considering if children are playing or working, to think about the context of the activity we are observing or planning.
The final thing that Gray talked about that really helped us unpick the play/work conundrum was not to think of play as binary. It's not helpful to think that children are either playing or their not. It's much more helpful to think of playing as a scale. Perhaps on one end of the scale a child is 100% playing: they've chosen their own activity, imposed their own rules, they are actively involved and are using their imagination to develop their play. On the other end of the scale the child is playing very little: their activity has been imposed upon them, they have no choice of how to undertake it, the outcome is valued by the adult more than the process and their is no imaginative thinking going on. And when you put it like that - it doesn't sound 'fun' at all!
Over the next couple of blogs we'll look at the definitions in more detail to help judge different types of activities and how much play is going on!