It can be tempting for parents and teachers to think of classrooms only as being places where learning should take place. Therefore, teachers ensure that every minute of each day is jam-packed with learning experiences and with plenty of writing, reading and desk work. Parents are significantly attuned to the grades that their children are receiving and are constantly making sure that special needs students are meeting goals. However, with this major emphasis on learning, which is certainly praiseworthy, the classroom can become a very boring and dreaded place for some students. Learning becomes associated with negativity and with difficulty. This is especially the case for special education students who often need plenty of time to wiggle, move and use their voices. This is when playing is incredibly important and even beneficial.
Once teachers realize that a chance for play is important at times in their classrooms, they may still struggle to know how to best implement this new element. Playtime does not have to include huge playgrounds or expensive equipment although these can certainly have their places. Small toys, arts and crafts materials, and other items that get children moving are often the best options, especially in smaller classroom spaces.
Play in special education classrooms is incredibly beneficial in numerous ways. It can actually spark creativity and give students more energy for learning as the day progresses. Unstructured play has been associated not only with creativity but also with improved intelligence. As students play together, they learn important social skills as well as empathy for each other. Younger children also have a chance to work on gross and fine motor skills.