After synthesizing my field research, I developed a framework for what I believe creates healthy play experiences for kindergarteners. The Formula for Complex Play Patterns is a combination of intangible and tangible components that must be present for play.
In the classroom, the intangible conditions are Play is Valued and Time for Play. Teachers must value play and see its benefit in the classroom as a critical part of the curriculum. In addition, teachers see play as a significant contribution to the overall well-being of their students. Classrooms that value play dedicate time every school day to free play giving kindergarteners the freedom to choose their own activities.
The tangible conditions in my framework are Variety of Experience, Variety of Materials and Variety of Space.
Variety of Experience
I spoke with teachers who told me that enhancing play often means giving students exposure to the world around them through fiction and non-fiction books, images and field trips. These experiences could also include the entertainment they consume, the toys they own and the games that they play. I also believe that play can be enhanced during playtime by introducing narratives, challenges and obstacles. I also think that the more experiences a child has, the more complex and sophisticated the play scenario gets as storytelling and narratives emerge.
Variety of Materials
Kindergarteners need the right toys to play. For creative play to exist, toys must be modular and adaptable to a child’s play scenario. Furthermore, children need access to supplementary tools such as paper, textiles and art supplies to complement their toys. These supplemental tools serve as a means to expand the play scenarios that they create.