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How and why Global School Play Day is working to restore unstructured play for kids

For five years now, the first Wednesday in the month of February has been designated as Global School Play Day. This year, on February 5th, schools all over the world will pledge to allow students to spend an entire day playing with their classmates.

Here are the guidelines for educators…

  • Don’t organize anything for the students
  • Supervise students, but don’t tell them how to play
  • Call for toys – board games, Legos, blocks, balls, cards, puzzles
  • Don’t suggest how to use toys or games
  • No screens or battery-powered devices

Why play is essential to social and emotional learning

The catalyst for Global School Play Day was a Tedx Talk given by Dr. Peter Gray. During the 16 minute talk, Gray presents a compelling argument that today’s kids do not grow up playing and this could have a negative impact. He backs his case with the science of how animals develop.

“Young mammals of essentially all species play. In play, they develop fit bodies they practice physical skills that are crucial to their survival and they also practice social and emotional skills,” says Gray. “By playing together they learn to cooperate with one another. They learn to be in close vicinity to one another without losing their tempers, very important for social animals to develop.

Gray also points out that “risky play” teaches animals how to take risks and experience fear without losing their minds.

The Start of GSPD

A group of educators was so influenced by Gray’s lecture, they decided to do something about it. Global School Play Day was their answer. The grassroots movement in 2015 had over 65,000 participants and by 2019, GSPD had over half a million involved.

GSPD Co-Founder, Eric Saibel, says they would love to see a million participants in 2020. The California principal says it’s incredible to see images of students in New Zealand doing slip and slide while the kids in Minnesota are building a snowman.

“There’s this idea that has kind of crept into American society and education over the last 50-60 years that things need to be directed by adults for them to have importance for kids. And that is simply not true,” says Saibel.

Saibel says GSPD is about building awareness. He knows that one day out of the year will not build a new paradigm, but he hopes it will build a new culture at a school and maybe across a community.

A culture where people interact says Saibel, “Where there is a greater value placed on connecting face-to-face, person to person.”

To hear our full conversation with Saibel and learn how you can participate in GSPD, listen to episode 134 of Class Dismissed.

You can listen to all the Class Dismissed Podcast episodes on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

Click here to learn more or register for Global School Play Day.

Other Show Notes

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