In December, 2020 I posted a conversation with Peter Rawitcsh, Anne Haas Dyson, Nakoley Renville and Dr. Peter Metz, What Price Do Children Pay When Play Disappears? Dr. Metz discussed how, in his pediatric psychiatric clinic, a new diagnosis seemed to be appearing. Play Deprived.
Mary Pipher, the renowned American psychologist has warned that the protected place in space and time that we once called childhood has grown shorter.
Global School Play Day is a valiant effort to address this problem. Dr. Peter Gray, the author of Free to Learn, is a passionate spokesman for this important project.
RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF UNSTRUCTURED PLAY
February 4, 2015, was the first annual Global School Play Day for students in schools around the world. In year one, over 65,000 students participated! Since 2015, over a million students from 75 Nations were given the gift of unstructured play time. Can we reach 1,500,000 students in 2023? We think so!
In his TEDx lecture, Peter Gray clearly argues the case that today’s kids do not grow up playing and this has negatively impacted them in many ways. It’s time we return the gift of play to this generation.
How Does GSPD Work?
First, please register your class/school to tell the world that you will be participating in GSPD 2023. If you do not teach, but would like to register your vote of support, please use this form. https://www.globalschoolplayday.com
COVID-19 Information – GLOBAL SCHOOL PLAY DAY IS ON!
COVID Safety – We are not doctors or scientists and do not have a deep understanding of the transmission of COVID. If you choose to participate we encourage you to assure your students’ safety first (As we know teachers do). We do however have some child-generated ideas. We would encourage you, since the day is about having children be self-directed, to have a play brainstorming session with your students where you lay out the safety guidelines. They, of course, will have amazing ideas!
1. EDUCATE – Teach your students, parents, colleagues, and administration about the benefits and necessity of play. Perhaps you could share Peter Gray’s TEDx video with them on the decline of play in our culture.
2. GET SOCIAL – Invite your colleagues to participate in Global School Play Day 2023 (February 1). Light the fire so others will catch the vision of returning the gift of unstructured play to this generation by talking about it on social media and in the teachers’ lounge. Write your own blog post encouraging your readers to join in on GSPD. Connect with the GSPD community by hashtagging your social media posts with #GSPD2023.
3. CALL FOR TOYS – Tell your class to bring anything they wish to play with to school on February 1, 2023 (Or as close to that date as you can). The only restrictions we ask: they must bring toys and these toys may NOT require batteries or electricity. No devices. Give them some ideas, since today’s kids rarely play and often own very few toys: board games, dolls, Legos, blocks, trucks, cars, racetracks, playing cards, empty cardboard boxes, markers, jigsaw puzzles, blankets (for forts), social games (charades, Pictionary, etc.) The only exception to the electronics rule would be a board game that has an electronic timer, an electronics play kit, or similar. How about taking your students out in the dirt or snow to dig, explore and get messy? You may want to show your students photos of past GSPD events to open their eyes to unfamiliar types of unstructured play.
4. PLAY! NO SCREENS – NO STRUCTURE – ALL DAY LONG
on Global School Play Day, allow your students to spread their toys out around the room or take the kids outside and just PLAY!
Don’t organize anything for your students.
Don’t tell them how to play with the toys/games.
Don’t interfere with your students unless you see something that could get you fired or would physically hurt a child (this does not include something that may be physically uncomfortable for a child.)
Don’t Leave Them Unsupervised as the day is unstructured by adults, but not unsupervised.
Other than taking a few pictures/videos, try to be invisible and let the kids play. This is a day of unstructured play, not playful teacher-led lessons. You will be amazed at what your kids come up with!
5. SHARE AND REFLECT – After the event, be sure to share your pictures, ideas, and reactions on social media (with parent consent) and hashtag them #GSPD2023. Perhaps you could add a post to your blog sharing about the experience. Ask your students to reflect on GSPD as well! Be sure to talk to your students and if possible, their parents, about the necessity of daily unstructured play. Your students will most surely ask if they can have play days more often. A great answer is, “Of course! Every day can be “play day” with your friends in your neighborhood after school. Keep playing as you did at school today, but just do it after school.”
What if… you can’t run your Global School Play Day on the first Wednesday in Febraury? Do it on another day! The important thing is your kids and colleagues need to be free from thinking that play is a waste of time and begin to see the value in it.
What if… you don’t want to play ALL day? That’s fine. Make it the hour of play. Again, the point of Global School Play Day is to raise awareness and start discussions. We do encourage you though to take the plunge and dedicate a whole day to unstructured play. You will cause others to ask why you would give up a whole day “just for playing.”
What if… you want to do #GSPD2023 with your work, high school or college class? Go for it! Big kids need to play, too! Each year we have many participants from all levels of school!
What if… you want to jump in and play with your kids? Can adults play, too? That’s up to you, but the concept of GSPD is to get kids playing freely without adult intervention or structure. If you get down on the floor with your kids, be sure to let them just play. Resist the temptation to organize, discipline, and teach.
What if…you want to have your students use iPads or computers? Well, no one is going to tell you what to do, but this is NOT the concept of Global School Play Day. GSPD is a day to get away from staring at screens and instead of interacting with peers. [Note: the organizers of GSPD are NOT opposed to technology use for children.]
Global School Play Day is for public schools, private schools, and homeschool families! Let’s spread the word about the benefits of unstructured play. Together we can reverse the downward trend in childhood play that many nations have experienced since the 1950’s.