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The importance of play for all years.

I was inspired to write a post on Linkedin after reading this article on play-

It resonated with me because of my background as a specialist advisor for speech and language for a local authority. This role involved advisory support for Speech and Language in schools by liaising with speech and language therapists across the borough.

Due to my experience, when I started my role as a headteacher, one of the first things I did was extend lunch and break time. We also put social/communication skills on the timetable.

My school was a secondary special school for learners with Autism and associated difficulties.

Play is a vital factor in the development of speech and language for both younger and older children. Through play, young children construct their understanding of language through play experiences such as reading books together or role-playing games. For older children, play can also be a great way to engage in creative storytelling which can help them understand how words are used in different situations. Speech and language therapists often play-based activities to help stimulate speech and language development, especially when working with teenagers who may be resistant to more traditional teaching methods. It is clear that play has an important role in the development of speech and language at any age.

PLAY (purposeful learning for all years) is an important part of learning.

Below I outline the reasons why-

1.Play is a vital part of any child’s development, and it is especially important for children with special needs. Through play, children establish valuable communication and social skills, develop cognitive abilities as well as physical coordination, and ultimately build a sense of self-esteem.

2.Play provides an opportunity for children to explore their environment while engaging in creative expression without fear or judgment; this helps foster healthy emotional growth even when dealing with unique challenges such as mental health diagnoses or other delays in learning.

3.Meaningful play experiences support cognitive and language development but as children grow older and move away from toys, we think they no longer need play in their lives. But play is still important for children of all ages. From social development to problem-solving skills to creativity and imagination, research shows that engaging in different types of play can help foster growth in many areas – even as students grow into adulthood.

4.Play is an important part of language development, not just for toddlers and young children but also for teenagers. A play-based approach is often used by speech and language therapists when helping older children with speech and language difficulties which helps them learn new words, sentences and sounds as well as practice using them in real life situations. Through play, children are able to gain the confidence to speak more clearly by experimenting with words in a safe way where they can make mistakes without judgement. This helps to build those crucial skills so that they grow in confidence, even if they still have speech and language difficulties.

5. Schools that cut break times to increase traditional learning time often see an increase in anxiety and stress amongst their pupils. Children with SEMH often have break time taken away which results in less opportunity for them to regulate themselves.Play can be an incredibly powerful tool for supporting challenging behaviour in both younger and older children. It has been proven to play a vital role in the development of children’s communication and problem-solving abilities. In the case of teenagers and older children, play supports self-regulation of emotions, decisions on conflict resolution and helps them play out negative thoughts or difficult situations. Play provides a safe space for participants to practice new skills learned, making it an invaluable resource for addressing issues related to self regulation .

At my school our year 11 results increased year on year to the point where in my last our year 11 pupils achieved their best results ever. If you are considering shortening break and lunch times to fit in time for more traditional lessons, please reconsider and think about adopting a more holistic approach which includes lots of opportunity for play for all years.

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