How important is Play?

Play is a crucial aspect of life at school. It is the opening of a door into a world of ‘Pure Imagination’. A chance for children to discover how to share, care, listen and learn. It would be an understatement to say that this is an easy ride. It is a rollercoaster of emotions with plenty of ups, downs, loops and bumps. This is the first step for children into the world of social interaction. For many children, it is their opportunity to make their mark, to develop friendships and learn how to cope when things go wrong.

Key to play is the opportunity to learn from others. The Foundation Phase in Wales has a simple aim of learning through play. Very often classroom lessons provide pupils with play activities unaware that they are developing and learning certain skills. A well organised classroom in the Nursery and Reception truly is a world of imagination for a young child. Yet, above all other opportunities, play provides the best opportunity for developing language. In a Welsh Medium School, this is essential in making children fluent in a language which is not always spoken at home. The use of supporting scaffolds is crucial and one of the most important aspects of play is on the school yard.

Whilst on duty one Friday lunchtime, I was in the company of a class of four and five year old children. I was thinking how could I develop the yard.

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In the modern age, the belief exists that children often spend their time in front of screens yet on that Friday all the children wanted to enjoy was playing yard games.

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Were children very different in previous generations?

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Hopscotch is still very popular and enjoyed by many pupils.

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Simply making up games was also great fun. I learnt how to play, ‘Crocodile’. A new game to me and one the pupils greatly enjoyed.

Games are a crucial part of school life. It encourages cooperation, develops social skills and allows pupils to interact. As already explained, in Welsh Medium Schools it is also key in developing the use of the language.

Here are a few games that were played:

Beth yw’r amser Mr Blaidd?/What’s the time Mr Fox?

All the children stand in a line and one child is the fox and stands in front of the other children.

The children shout to the fox Beth yw’r amser Mr Blaidd?/ What’s the time Mr Fox? The fox replies with an answer – 1 o’r gloch/ 1 o clock,

2 o’r gloch/ 2 o clock, 3 o’r gloch/3 o clock. If the fox calls out 1 o’r gloch/1 o clock the children take one step forward.

This is repeated several times – if the fox calls out Amser Cinio/Lunch time the fox can chase the children, if he catches a child that child is the fox and the game starts again.

Mae’r ffermwr eisiau gwraig/The farmer wants a wife.

All the children hold hands in a circle and the farmer stands in the middle.

As the children walk round in a circle they sing

Mae’r ffermwr eisiau gwraig,

Mae’r ffermwr eisiau grwaig,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae’r ffermwr eisiau gwraig.

When the song is finished the children stop and the farmer chooses a wife.

Once the wife is in the middle of the circle the children start walking and sing again. This time the wife wants a baby, so they sing:-

Mae’r gwraig eisiau babi,

Mae’r gwraig eisiau babi,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae’r grwaig eisiau babi.

When the song is finished the children stop and the wife chooses a baby.

Once the baby is in the middle of the circle the children start walking and sing again. This time the baby wants a nurse, so they sing:-

Mae’r babi eisiau nyrs,

Mae’r babi eisiau nyrs,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae’r babi eisiau nyrs.

When the song is finished the children stop and the baby chooses a nurse.

Once the nurse is in the middle of the circle the children start walking and sing again. This time the nurse wants a dog, so they sing:-

Mae’r nyrs eisiau ci,

Mae’r nyrs eisiau ci,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae’r nyrs eisiau ci.

When the song is finished the children stop and the nurse chooses a dog.

Once the dog is in the middle of the circle the children start walking and sing again. This time the dog wants a bone, so they sing:-

Mae’r ci eisiau asgwrn,

Mae’r ci eisiau asgwrn,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae’r ci eisiau asgwrn.

When the song is finished the children stop and the dog chooses a bone.

Once the bone is in the middle of the circle the children walk into the circle and sing:- Everyone eats the bone

Mae pawb yn bwyta’r asgwrn,

Mae pawb yn bwyta’r asgwrn,

Hey ho di hey di ho

Mae pawb yn bwyta’r asgwrn.

Both the above games have been played in Welsh schools for many generations and even in the world of modern technology pupils still want to play!

Some games are very old fashioned and create a picture of life that might not picture their own e.g. how many homes are similar to the song about the farmer? The key point is that children are generally still the same. They want to have fun in the company of others.

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And of course children can learn through play!

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