The Importance of Play - A Parent’s Perspective
Written by Saana Pietilä - Mont'Kiara International School Parent
Why play is important to me
I come from Finland, where kids play until they start school at the age of seven. Their first two years of school are only four hours long, and every 45-minutes, there is a 15-minute play break. The Finnish education system is currently regarded as one of the leading systems in the world.
Children don't see playing as learning; it is just something that comes naturally to them. It is a part of living and how they perceive the world. When kids play, they develop a sense of themselves and others.
This made me curious about how much playtime my kids have during the day. My kids have been at M’KIS for four and a half years and I recently landed an internship at M’KIS, which opened the door for me to observe the classroom in action. As a parent, I had a very different perspective of what actually happened in the classroom and was pleasantly surprised at what I found out. My experience below is focused on kindergarten.
One thing I learned is that purposeful play is used extensively by M’KIS teachers. Teachers provide students with various options regarding what they can play. An example of this is where, during playtime, students built a house for animals and were given creative freedom about how they did this. Students saw this as playtime, but, in reality, they were learning social, problem-solving, and creative thinking skills through play. Additionally, they were also learning about animal habitats. I watched in awe as the teachers guided their students in the right direction and encourage them to ask questions along the way. It was a fun way to learn.
“I invite my students to learn.” - M’KIS Kindergarten Teacher.
When students are provided choices, they are more creative, open-minded, and curious. I witnessed an example of this when students were shown paper and pencils on a table and asked, “what can we do with these?”. The teacher knew that she wanted them to make a book, but she wanted the students to come to that conclusion by themselves and was interested in the ideas they would come up with as alternatives.
Regular recess and free play time provide students with another opportunity to practice their social and emotional skills, without them even realizing it. This is a safe zone for them to see where the limits are, explore various interactions, and, most importantly, make mistakes. This type of play allows them to learn how to independently overcome difficult situations and work through their feelings
It was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned that my kids play much more than I realized. Just looking at the timetable did not provide me with the entire picture. It may not be free play all the time, but they do play. Even though, as a Finnish parent, I will always want my kids to have more playtime, the most important thing for me is that they are happy and that they want to go to school. It is a pleasure to pick my kids up in the afternoon and to see the smiles on their faces.
“Play gets kids ready for learning, teaches them how to pay attention, and how to play well with others. When parents and teachers have fun, the kids fun too!” - Saana Pietila - Proud M’KIS Parent.