The Need for Play

It’s another gorgeous autumn day here in Vancouver.  Autumn is typically a favourite season for us, with that magic combination of blue skies, cooler temperatures and the smell of leaves, wood-smoke and comfort foods like homemade soups and stews, all rolled into one. It’s a return to wearing our jeans, cosy wool sweaters and leather boots.  We’re looking forward to spending some time playing outside with our students tomorrow as this amazing weather continues.

There’s been a lot of talk about play lately.

The Vancouver Sun recently reported on a study by Dr. Denise Buote for the North Shore Community Resources Society, that North Shore neighbourhoods are part of a trend that found young children to be at an “increased risk of struggling at school.”  Factors included a lack of opportunity for play, increased time spent on technology and structured activities, and over involvement by parents in activities children can, and should do, independently.  The study revealed that approximately 30% of those children entering Kindergarten were not developmentally ready; thus, did not have the school readiness skills to be fully ready to learn.

“Unstructured play is this natural opportunity for children to engage with others and have opportunities around social skills and exploration and develop curiosity and all those good things that really help children learn and grow,” Buote said. “Play is a big concern and there’s not enough of it going on.”

Since 2011, Kindergarten children at Ridgeview have been attending a full-day program along with the rest of the province.  In the five years previous to that time, Christy and I job-shared two half-day programs. Many of those children in the morning program would stay to play after school with their friends and parents would have an opportunity to chat and get to know one another; others would go home for a nap.  In the afternoon class, sometimes students would come early to play and eat their lunch on the playground before their 12:30 start or stay after school.  Sometimes a play date among several friends might be arranged.  It’s not to say the children and parents do not do some these activities today, but it certainly seemed less rushed.

In an effort to provide more unstructured playtime for our students, we have built it into our program through Centre Time, which we have twice a day, and throughout the subject areas.

IMG_0521Our Centre Time is an opportunity for the children to choose their own activities, form their own groups, let their imagination take flight and use the language of social play.  We observe incredible collaborations between groups of children building with Lego, blocks and creating puzzles.  The children display their natural curiosity whether exploring found objects in nature with a magnifying glass or in their thinking as they learn to ask powerful questions.  They exercise their imaginations writing books and designing artistic creations at the Imagination Station; or creating an elaborate social play with friends in the House Corner.


The children love their outside recess time on our beautiful playground.  We’ve fortunate to have a Principal who understands the need for our little people to have unstructured play time on their own, and has reallocated Teaching Assistant time away from the office to Kindergarten supervision.  As a result the Kindergarten has their own morning recess, with adult supervision, at a time separate from Grades 1-7.  With our school population of 415 students, this is significant.

IMG_1784Our children play with just Grades K-4 at lunch on the playground, and we have our own recess every afternoon, supervised by Christy and myself.  We could never have done this without the support of our staff so naturally we are very grateful.  Although we will eventually join the rest of the school for our breaks later on this year, we are working hard to meet the play needs of our littlest learners.

We know that more and more children every year in Kindergarten are becoming very tech savvy.  We realise this through the information they share such as the television shows they watch, the number of children who have their own iPads and mini-iPads and their familiarity with apps. We can only conclude that with the amount of time they spend using technology, that they are not doing something else.   Although it might seem like they are “playing,” the reality is that the children are being entertained through the rapid stimulation of their brain.  They are not using their brain in the same way they would if they were engaged in outdoor pursuits, dramatic play, reading a book, painting, dancing or listening to music.

We know this is only the beginning of a larger discussion about play and young children.   This could be the moment for everyone, from parents to schools to our community resources, to come together for the betterment of all families.

Some excellent reading on play:

The Secret of Play (2008)  (Anne Pleshette Murphy)

Playful Learning (2011) (Mariah Bruehl)

This Week in Our Room:  September 28-October 2, 2015

IMG_1902Terry Fox Walk/Run.  We had an exciting day on Wednesday when we ran in the memory of Terry Fox!  Our children looked wonderful in their red and white clothes.  We gathered on the field for a warm-up and ran laps on our own school field with our Grade 7 Big Buddies.

It was a gorgeous day as our students walked, ran, skipped and galloped around the field.  We were thrilled with everyone’s participation in one of Ridgeview’s great traditions.

Our school raised $2005.55 for the Terry Fox Foundation.  Thank you for your generous donations and support.

We are looking forward to seeing our Big Buddies often to build a special connection with the senior students.  Our Buddies will help us with crafts, playing outside on the playground and digital literacy projects throughout the year.

iPals.  IPALS is a free family early literacy/language program designed to support the development of important foundational early literacy skills for children between the ages of 3-5 years.  This is a parent-child education program lead by qualified Early Childhood Educators and trained Cultural/Language facilitators which follows a research based early literacy curriculum.  Families receive free resources at each session for families to continue learning at home between weekly sessions. Permanent resident cards are requested as this is a federally funded immigration program supported and hosted by the West Vancouver School District.  For more information, please see the attached poster or visit


If your first language is Farsi or Mandarin, this is an amazing opportunity for you and your Kindergarten child to participate in this program.


We sent home the proofs of your child’s photos this week.  Please return your order form by October 9.

We finished our work on the letter B.  We will be sending home our B craft project and some student work on Monday.  Remember to keep your alphabet crafts to build an alphabet wall with your child.

We’re still collecting the Homework Calendars for September.  It’s not too late to return yours for a sticker!

Next week the Hot Lunch Program begins. If you ordered a hot lunch for your child, please assist us with the following:

  1.  Send along an extra snack or two (maybe another granola bar and piece of fruit) in case your child does not like the hot lunch that has been ordered
  1. Send along a large ziploc bag or plastic bag in which your child can place the packaging from the hot lunch.  We are unable to dispose of the organic and packaging waste at school so the children will have to pack everything out in their lunch kits and backpacks.  
  1.  If you child receives a hot lunch, this does not preclude them from eating snacks at recess time.  Please continue to send a snack along, particularly for the morning recess.
  1.  Please send your child’s non-spill water bottle daily.  They are very thirsty by mid-afternoon and we are teaching them that water is the healthiest thirst quencher for their bodies.  It’s cleaner and faster for the children to drink from their own water bottles, rather than waiting in line for the water fountain.
  2. If you have not yet provided a backpack for your child, this would be a good time.  In addition to their lunch, water bottle and notices, the children are now have their weekly library book to take home as well.