Play can take on multiple directions. While one person may tend towards one type of play another will tend to another. Neither person is wrong or less playful that the other. Playing differently is part of playing creatively. While homeschooling – or teaching in a classroom for that matter -, it is necessary to provide a variety of play experiences to both reach every child in their comfort zone and to pull them further than they believe they can go.

Why meet them in their comfort zone? Simple, we all like our comfort zones. Our comfort zone allows us to lead and shine. It builds our confidence and allows us to explore. It allows for us to take a break from intense learning. Wait! What? Do we want our children to take a break? It turns out that we do. According to Daeyeol Lee and his Yale colleagues, without breaks we wouldn’t persist through failure. We would simply give up (Aren’t Sure? Brain Is Primed for Learning, 2018). Have you ever seen shut down happen? I have. Sometimes we are so focused on moving forward we forget to pause and rest. So, take those learning breaks and rest in that comfort zone for a while . . . just not too long.

S-T-R-E-T-C-H! What if we all kept working to extend our comfort zones? What if we found we truly loved a different type of play once we had the chance to explore in a new way? What if our brains could make more and stronger connections within learning as we stretched ourselves by trying something new? Moving away from what we know opens new pathways, invites increased play, and begs for creativity to flow.

What does this look like practically? Well, for us, it means a few things.

– First, we have a list of B. Hughes’ types of play folded into the front of the binder we keep with us during focused learning times every day. Want a copy of the chart we use? Check it out here.

– Second, it means stopping and picking a different way to play with a concept at least once a day if not more. The boys get a chance to stay in their comfort zone time to time by picking the type of play activity we are going to do. When it is their turn, I usually will name two or three activities and whichever boy is lucky enough to be the one to pick will choose or will name another option– naming an alternative is rare for anyone except our oldest who has also studied types of play but it does happen from time to time. How do we S-T-R-E-T-C-H? Well, since there are four boys, who are all quite different from one another, stretching often occurs when it is someone else picks or when Mommy does the choosing. Activities that stretch all four of them at once can be a real doozy to manage but in the end they are immensely valuable.

– Third, white space is a must. In order for us to spend time playing both in and out of our comfort zones, we have to have plenty of white space – aka unscheduled time. Play may take 15 minutes or it might take two hours. You never know. You have to have or make the space as you see where the play is taking you.

Inserting play in all of it’s varieties doesn’t need to be complicated. It simply needs to be practiced. It doesn’t need to be super planned and prepared for ahead of time. It simply needs to be opened like an invitation. Don’t overthink it. Keep it smart. Keep it simple. Keep exploring play.

Aren’t sure? Brain is primed for learning. (2018, July 19). YaleNews.