“Life is more fun if you play games” Roald Dahl

It is a happy talent to know how to play
Chinese fortune cookie

Have you ever watched children racing about in the schoolyard during recess? Motion, curiosity, interactions, explorations…these all abound. Just click on this link and witness the energy and the discoveries these children are making as they splash the ball into the puddle.244 puddle splashershttps://www.investigatingchoicetime.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/244-puddle-splashers-2.mov

Charlene Cruse-Rivera, a kindergarten teacher in a New York City public school, watched her students playing in the schoolyard last September and had an inspirational idea. Why not begin the school year with an project exploring  outdoor games? Working on this as a class  would be a sure-fire way of building a community of learners and this study would assure lots of outdoor time.She got parents on board by introducing a notebook that went from one family to another every few days. Parents, grandparents and caretakers could write about the way that they played outdoors when they were children. Each time the book was returned from one family, it was shared with the class and passed on to the next family. This school is in a community that has many immigrants from a variety of different countries and cultures. Some parents, who were less comfortable writing in English,  wrote in their native language . Charlene assured them that she could have their entries translated so that she could read them to the class. Some parents preferred sharing drawings instead of writing. The book was a wonderful way of including families in the class investigation and the children were so proud of sharing their family pages.

The project was brought into the classroom at Choice Time when children went to the art center and found ways of representing some of the outdoor games that they played.



When the weather got colder Charlene had the idea of extending the investigation into a study of board games because these could be played indoors. She began by dedicating one period a day for one week for children to play a variety of board games.


After the children had time to explore the different games, Charlene felt certain that this would be a study that they would enjoy and that would be worth spending an extended amount of time exploring. When I visited the school for one of my consulting days, Charlene and I sat down and did some planning.

These are some of the understandings that we hoped would come out ot the study:

  • There are some similarities in the rules of playing otdoor games and the rules for playing board games.
  • There are also differences in the rules for outdoor games and board games.
  • The rules help us understand how to play a game.
  • Rules for a game are usually consistent.
  • By knowing all about commercial board games, children will understand how to create their own games.

Children began creating their own games during Choice Time. They also wrote about the games they played in their Choice Time journals and they added to a big book of games and game rules.

They made new games for the class to play, even some in the block center.


The Dinosaur Game

Click here to see some wonderful inquiry into creating a new game in the block center!best block investigations

Playing board games gives children opportunities to experience taking turns, verbally interacting with friends, waiting for their turns, and sharing. Rather than becoming fixated on a computer screen, children experience playing face to face with each other. They also learn new strategies, and often use mathematical skills (counting the dots on the dice, counting out moves on a board, using logical thinking skills.) So many of the kindergarten Common Core Learning Standards were playfully addressed in this study.

As Benjamin Franklin said, ” Games lubricate the body and the mind.”

Bravo Charlene, for getting those young minds very well-lubricated and giving them lots of important time for play and exploration!

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