Each year it seems like the curriculum, even in first grade, becomes more and more rigorous. Unfortunately, these demands leave little to no time for play. I believe in the importance of play, and my students love when there is room for play during the school day. That’s why this year we are going to celebrate Global School Play Day, and my students will get the gift of play!

What is Global School Play Day?

Global School Play Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in February (This year, February 2nd). It’s an unstructured and self-directed period of play time during the school day. This period of play could last anywhere from an hour to a full day. It really depends on what works for you and your students.

During the day, students decide what they will do and use for play. This could include toys, board games, physical games, playing cards, building blocks, art products, costumes, and more. What shouldn’t be used are battery operated and electronic toys of any kind. Since this is self-directed play time, adults are not involved in any aspect of the play. Learn more at  One Day. Nothing But Play.

All age groups can celebrate!

Yes! There is no age limit when it involves celebrating play. Students of all ages can participate in Global School Play Day. Check out how this 5th grade classroom celebrated.

Even adults can celebrate with their own Global School Play Day. A few years ago, my colleagues and I participated in an inclusion activity at the start of a professional learning event that I consider to be an example of adult play.

Each table group was given an item, such as a wire paper tray, geoboard, pencil caddy, number charts, and other school items that we were asked to repurpose and share our ideas for other ways the items might be used. The activity was really engaging, and it was fun to see the creative ideas that teams came up with.

The importance of unstructured play

There are instances when I feel like there is simply not enough time in the school day to teach the curriculum AND make room for play. However, when I look at the benefits of play, I realize my students are not losing out on any learning experiences but instead they’re gaining other valuable skills. As students participate in play and celebrate Global School Play Day, they’re developing all kinds of skills:

  • Play promotes problem-solving.
  • Students experience joy during play.
  • Learning how to negotiate is a natural aspect of play.
  • Students practice empathy during play.
  • During play, students learn to be creative and innovative.

Watch this Ted Talk to learn more about the importance of play as Peter Gray discusses the decline of play.

Even though Global School Play Day is celebrated once a year, the essence of a play day can be celebrated all year long and at every grade level. Let’s give our students the gift of play!

How do you make room for play in your classroom? Leave us a note in the comments.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the first grade newsletter for more creative ideas and articles written by me.