by Miss Grace of


School, learning, academics, and tutoring are often synonymous with sitting in a hard chair at a table or a desk with the expectation that you will learn based on what the teacher or tutor is telling you and complete some sort of worksheet or drill. I want to shift the perception of learning and highlight the incredible benefits play provides to a child’s educational journey.


Why Play?

As educators we strive for children to find that spark of curiosity; to evaluate, analyze, predict and problem solve in diverse scenarios. A key part of curiosity is the freedom to explore not only your environment but also individual learning preferences. Curiosity and the freedom to explore encourages natural engagement. Play-based learning methods activate and stimulate areas of the brain to build foundations for later learning more effectively than traditional schooling methods (Stagnitti, 2016).


Play Isn’t Just for Academics

Social emotional learning, or SEL, in the educational world is gaining traction across the country. Social emotional learning includes thoughts, feelings, safe spaces, behavior management, self-regulation, following rules and directions, conversing with others, focus/attention, and play. Through play a child has the opportunities for practice the skills listed above all in a short period of time and sometimes all at once. Take for example sharing, young children learn to share toys and naturally not everyone is happy about it. During play, scenarios arise and provide natural consequences to actions. Taking a toy from a peer without asking leads to an emotional outburst and in this moment we can teach some how to choose a positive role in our society. The person who took without asking takes ownership of one’s actions by apologizing and giving back the toy. They learn to repair the relationship through continued play with the same peer and how to obtain the toy they want using a positive approach.


Play Partners

A play partner is anyone; parents, siblings, teachers, tutors, same aged peers, older or younger peers, grandparents, the list goes on. As a parent play partner your role is crucial and sometimes feels a little weird. As adults we don’t use our free time to sit and play with dolls or create wild fantasies in our head and then run around the yard pretending to be superheroes, or at least, most of us don’t. We often sit and observe play, or when we do participate we are at a distance and allow the child to take the lead. Get involved, if you want your child to move and grove you are right alongside them with silliness, laughter, and messy hands and clothes. Don’t be afraid to get down in the dirt, literally, when playing. Let go of your expectations for the play and allow for complete exploration and start with a warm up. For example, set up a goal area and kick a soccer ball through the goal, bring out butterfly nets and catch bugs, or throw water balloons to each other without them breaking.


How To Play

Remember, you are an equal part of this experience. First choose a toy, I like toys with multiple steps and possibilities, like trains. Clear a space on the floor, then have your child help you put the tracks together, choose a train, and move it around the track. During play use your own voice to make the train sounds, and create a scenario where the train falls off the tracks and needs help. When playing outside in the summertime I gravitate towards open spaces with some shade. Explore your area, sticks are now drumsticks and the tree is your drum, sing a familiar song to the tree as you play and lull it to sleep. A big stick is now a pony named Buttercup and you count your gallops/steps as you ride across the yard.


Play Activities for Academics

As a play partner you can guide the session with predetermined goals. For example, my goal is for a child to repeat and identify rhyming words. First, we take turns blowing bubbles and twirling around in a circle to make a bubble ring, and run around to pop, stomp, and clap the bubbles. Pair the movements with a song that has repetitive phrases like “clap, clap, clap those bubbles, clap, clap, clap those bubbles, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap”. Gradually, add in another word rhymes like clap and tap, pop and bop.


I hope I gave enough background knowledge and ideas to include play in your everyday life, or at the very least a little silliness.


Play  🧩 Learn  🧠  Grow  🌼


Miss Grace

For more information on how Miss Grace can help you, visit


​​Stagnitti, K., Bailey, A., hudspeth Stevenson, E., Reynolds, E., & Kidd, E. (2016). An investigation into the effect of play-based instruction on the development of play skills and oral language. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 14(4), 389-406.