Play = a Brain-Friendly Classroom

I love, love, LOVE this book! Silly Sports & Goofy Games by Dr. Spencer Kagan. Like most of you, I realize that play is important to kiddos. Sure it's important for kiddos' physical health....it's also important for the brain and learning!

Here's the nitty-gritty: "As students play, even if it is only for a two or three minute game of quick tag, their heart rates and volumes increase, pumping more oxygen and glucose to the brain. Their respiratory rates and volumes increase as well, oxygenating the blood. With more oxygen and glucose pumped to the brain, students are more alert. Thus, Silly Sports & Goofy Games actually nourish the brain, aligning our classroom practices with how the brain learns best."

How awesome is that?! I had already planned on using lots of the games in the book in my classroom. My teamie & I have noticed that kiddos really just don't know how to play. When we go out at recess...out kiddos mostly swing or play chase. We actually are having a CAMP IN with our class tomorrow (yep-- roasting hotdogs, making s'mores, lots of fun stuff, and actually sleeping in the gym!), and are planning to teach them how to play some games so that they have a repertoire to pull from when they go to recess. BUT - now that I realize the benefits I'm actively trying to think of how I can build games into our day!


If you've read my blog, you know that I teach a 1, 2, & 3 Multi-age classroom...and I also team teach, so what we've really got going on is 54 kids -- 2 teachers. We really focus a great deal on being a TEAM - what it means, what it looks like, what it feels like. We try to do lots of team-building activities, which is what drew me to this book in the first place.

I really, really like that the games in the book are all divided into sections according to what skills they help kiddos develop. How cool is that?
You can actually take into consideration the skill your kiddos need to work on, & find a game that supports that!

So -- here are 5 ways to use play to create a brain-friendly classroom.

  1. Teach games to students so they have a 'toolbox' to pull from when out at recess.
  2. Use games that foster balance, coordination, & challenge when students aren't working well together.
  3. Provide some 'comic relief' by playing a couple rounds of tag, or some Goofy Games when the class has been working on a challenging activity.
  4. Some kiddos have too much emphasis on winning? Try some Silly Sports to emphasize the joy of play & deemphasize the outcome.
  5. Pull kiddos up out of their seat with a helper game to build empathy, caring, & mutual support.

We've had a lot of fun practicing the games here at home (so I know how to play by tomorrow night!)