Keeping Imaginative Play In the Kindergarten Classroom:How to conduct observations of play behaviors to identify and understand individual student development and integration of skills within authentic play contexts

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Alicia Mari Portfolio

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." Plato


The 2009 report commissioned by the Alliance for Childhood,"Crisis In the Kindergarten Why Children Need to Play In School", finds that educators' limited understanding of play is one of the reasons for the loss of play time in kindergarten classrooms. In the report, Professor Diane Levin discusses her research findings and states that teachers," May say that play is important, but they often don't recognize the difference between the imitative, repetitive play frequently seen today and the more creative, elaborated play of the past. Many teachers don't know why play is important." The same report points to a study conducted by a Sarah Lawrence College research team which found inconsistencies with teachers' and principals' understanding of the relationship between play and learning, summarized as follows:

  • What principals and teachers mean by play varies. They generally did not distinguish imaginative play from other activities that include manipulative materials, games, gardens, and centers. Most teachers referred to "free choice time" or "center time," and did not actually call this "play." They often did not bring up the topic of play in the context of questions about free choice time until the researchers brought it up.
  • The relationship of play to learning was rarely articulated by principals or teachers.
  • Even when teachers and principals said they thought play was important, or that play led to learning, they were usually referring to an understanding of play as a highly scripted, teacher-directed activity.

The report summary underscores the point that play not only supports socio-emotional and motor development, but is central to academic skills acquisition as well as the growth of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some of the implications of this report are addressed in the video "Prescription for Play" as pediatrician Dr. Ken Ginsburg and psychiatrist Dr. Marilyn Benoit discuss the critical importance play has on children's global development.

Course Objectives

The purpose of this course is to increase awareness of the importance creative play has in the kindergarten classroom. Through examples, analysis, and interactive exercises, participants will consider play as a tool for identifying and analyzing play behaviors of kindergarten children with the ultimate goal of clarifying student development and integration of skills. Upon completion of this course:

  • Participants will have an understanding of the developmental benefits play offers young children.
  • Participants will recognize play in the kindergarten classroom as a tool for identifying students' developmental and academic progress.
  • Participants will be able to plan and implement play observations in their educational setting.
  • Participants will choose to implement the use of play observations within their scope of practice.


Edward Miller and Joan Almon, Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School, College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood, 2009.

Alliance For Childhood in Partnership with Kaboom. (July 7, 2011). Prescription for Play[Video file]. Retrieved from


Unit One: What is play?

Unit Two: What are the developmental benefits of play?

Unit Three: What Does Play Reveal About Student Academic Development?

Unit Four: How to incorporate play observations in the kindergarten classroom

Course Summary

Course Evaluation

Link to:Portfolio