By Mohit Midha

Students Who Play Better, Learn Better

Who doesn’t love feeling like you’re a kid again? Being silly, making jokes and feeling playful. Some might argue it’s the best feeling in the world. I know the team at Mangahigh does! We’re always finding ways to incorporate more play into the workplace. Whether that means weekly quizzes, a puzzles Slack channel or just simply cracking jokes together. It’s important and keeps us sane, especially now.

We know us adults are finding it difficult being away from each other with the COVID-19 lockdown in place, but imagine being a kid in times like these For children the most natural thing is social play. And where are their playing buddies? Either you are not allowed to see them or you are actually lucky enough to be able to meet up, but then you still have to abide by the social distancing rules. We know that it is just not the same, and it can have a real impact on a child.

Mental health and development

Play is the most natural thing we do. And we can see that even in completely different species to us. Did you know that animals play as well? A study by Vladimir Dinets showed that crocodiles blow bubbles, give each other piggyback rides and splash water to keep themselves entertained. Not only are they having fun, but it also helps their mental and physical health. In short, an animal that plays is a happy, healthy one.

Young boy playing with dog

The same goes for humans and especially, children. Play-therapy is proven to help children get back on their feet after experiencing trauma. Even children so severely traumatized that they don’t play at all anymore, can be encouraged to join in when they see everyone around them playing. This is why it’s so incredibly important right now to use even more play in the classroom than you normally would. Make time for it, and give children time to get back into it.

Assorted wooden shapes and other toys
Friedrich Fröbel’s ‘Gifts’ are some of the first educational toys and changed the way we think about education and play.

Play doesn’t only contribute to a child’s mental health, it also helps with their cognitive development. Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) stated: “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of a child's soul”. It flourishes children’s personality traits and helps them grow into their own person. Adding to that, play develops decision making skills and self-discipline.

Play in the classroom

Now, what can we do to help children play more? I’m sure you have your own games and fun that you already incorporate into your classroom, but here are a few (social distance-proof) ideas that you might love:

  • Painting - Tape a (few) giant sheet(s) on the floor and ask the children to work together to create a story - you can even ask them to explain science, history or maths concepts through the story. Each child can work on a side of the sheet or draw their bit in turns if the classroom hasn’t got enough space
  • Tic-tac-toe - Create a huge tic-tac-toe board on the playground with chalk and play real-life tic-tac-toe with the kids being the Os and Xs.
  • Outdoor maths: Create a big 10x10 grid with chalk and number it 1 to 100. 2 teams of 2 play the game, team 1 starts on number 100 and 1, and team 2 on 91 and 10. A player can move 1 space each turn, while keeping 2 metres distance from each other. Each child has pen and paper to add up the value of numbers they stand on throughout the game. The game ends after 20 turns and the team with the highest value wins!
  • Yoga for children - It’s sure to get some giggles while exercising too! This works super well if you’re teaching from home as well.
  • Digital play - When you’re distance learning, or have devices in the classroom, you might want to consider a Kahoot! Quiz, or one of the Mangahigh games.
  • Can you save the world? - This free game is a great way for children to understand social distancing and can be a great refresher to assign before they go back to school.

Research shows that play improves the mental health of children, it helps them grow and develops their decision making and creative skills. And it’s so easy to incorporate in your classroom too! So let’s all commit to making more time to play, shall we? In the classroom and in our personal lives. Because we all just want to feel like a happy, playful kid again.

By Mohit Midha