Global Play Day 2021: “At home”
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Global Play Day 2021: “At home”

Play is foundational to children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. However, children today are experiencing less opportunities for play, or have play structured around adult-guided activities (source: US Play Coalition and Association for Childhood Education International, 2015). By celebrating Global Play Day, ISUtrecht recognised the importance of free play for all members of the community.

By Charlotte Smith, classroom teacher KG Purple

Play has multifaceted benefits, including gross motor development and increasing physical activity. It also promotes positive self-image and builds self-esteem, allowing children to feel successful and capable. Play develops children’s executive function and problem-solving capabilities. Finally, play builds children’s self-regulation and social interaction skills.

These areas of development make it clear play is important. But, the central importance of play is the fun, the joy and the happiness experienced. Developmental psychologist Dr Peter Gray summarises this in stating, “Play serves the serious purpose of education, but the player is playing for fun; education is the by-product.”. 

The value we place on play

ISUtrecht’s philosophy of inquiry learning builds upon the understanding that children learn best through social, collaborative, hands-on experiences, often delivered best through playful exploration. Consequently, play is central to teaching and learning in our community. However, by taking Global Play Day to champion play, our community can celebrate and confirm the value we place on play and its significance for our students.

In 2021, Global Play Day was held in 75 countries around the world, its biggest turnout despite the challenges of the pandemic. Global Play Day promotes unstructured, electronic-free play, without interference from adults. This year Global Play Day at ISUtrecht was taken to our students’ homes, offering an opportunity for parents to join in the tradition. The day offers pause from structured academic learning, and in the distance learning circumstances, we especially wanted to emphasise the importance of screen-free play and we also wanted to promote balance and well-being.

Play provocations

However, taking Global Play Day ‘At Home’ was not without its challenges. Without peers for social play and idea generation, the Global Play Day team recognised children might need some more support and collaborated with staff to suggest play provocations, or seeds from which play could grow, to the community.

Reflecting on the Global Play Day ‘At Home’ experience with our students and parents, it is clear the day was a success and very enjoyable for everyone. Students made board games, drew, crafted or created scavenger hunts. They visited parks, exploring mazes or making caves. They played cricket or baked cakes. So many students reflected how much they enjoyed playing with their parents or siblings. We hope experiencing Global Play Day raised your awareness of the importance of play, and that your family enjoyed the day.