PRIMARILY PLAY
PARENTS: PARTNERS IN LEARNING
THROUGH PLAY
All teachers know that parents want the
best for their children and they want their
children to be happy. What they perceive
as the best may not be the same as that of
the teacher, but their commitment is unquestionable.
As professionals, we must show a positive attitude
toward parents by listening to their concerns and
asking for their input regarding the individual child’s
needs. The parent knows the child better than
anyone else. They have watched their child’s growth
and patterns of behavior emerging over her life-span.
As an objective outsider, the teacher brings a fresh
set of eyes and will often notice things that may be
so familiar to the parents that potential problems are
over-looked. The best way to assess a child’s needs is
to consider both parental insight and the thoughtful
observations of a teacher. Given the frenetic pace of
everyday life, many parents have little time to spend
at their child’s school. A variety of ways, therefore, are
needed to enable them to connect with the teacher
and take part in the school-life of their child. These
include inviting parents into the classroom as:
• participants involved in helping the children with
projects such as cooking;
• volunteers to assist with routine tasks, such as
using the camcorder to capture an episode of
play;
• guests at special events, such as a celebration of
culture;
• expert presenters to share expertise with the
children, perhaps on based work, hobbies or
special collections.
Teachers may wish to keep parents up-to-date with
children’s progress in learning as they engage in
inquiry play. This information may be communicated
in a variety of ways.
• In a classroom newsletter, children can contribute
stories about what they are learning. (In the grade
2 classroom newsletter, Jeffrey wrote about
what he learned from building different kind of
bridges.)
• Work and pictures can be posted on a class
website. Visitors to the site may also post
questions.
• In an open house night, parents can view samples
of their child’s learnings.
• Information may be sent electronically
(depending on the school policy). However,
parents must have access to a computer and
must indicate interest in receiving information
this way.
• Photos that show what children are learning
through inquiry/play based learning may be
displayed in the halls of the school in different
formats, (documentation panels, storyboards).
These photos may also be turned into a class-
made book and sent home, in turn. As well,
photos can be put on a CD that is also made
available for borrowing. (The grade 3 class had
been experimenting with clay and cooperatively
made sculptures of playground scenes. Photos
were taken of each sculpture with comments
about the learning process involved in creating
the piece.)
• Photos could be made into a powerpoint
presentation for distribution.
• Audio recordings can be made of children talking
about their learning.
• Regular forums or discussions can be held in
which parents are invited to ask questions and
talk about ideas.
The establishment of parent councils has provided
teachers with a means of helping parents understand
what is happening and why. Through the council,
on-going professional dialogue can take place with
presentations, books, and articles used to spark
discussion. Using videos of play provides parents
a unique glimpse of their own children, and shows
the process of learning through play in action. The
video can be edited with sensitivity on the part of
the teacher to ensure the dignity of every child in the
class is respected.
Teachers and parents need to combine efforts as
advocates for quality education. They need to work
with organizations to support the integration of play
as a means of learning into the school programs. The
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario provides
leadership in this movement and looks to its teacher
members to pick up the challenge. There are a
number of other provincial and national associations
that address children’s issues. By joining one of these
groups and encouraging parents to do so, a unified
voice will be heard calling for learning through play
as a fundamental right for children.