The Importance of Play for Children During Social Distancing

“Parents across the globe are scrambling to fill their kids’ time, trying to become home school teachers and meet their schools’ variousrequirements. But maybe we need to let children play more instead.” L. R.McRobbie, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The Boston Globe


Excerpt: No summer camp, no problem. The value of play during a pandemic — By Linda R. McRobbie, The Boston Globe

“States are starting to re-open, but parents facing the end of the school year are at loose ends, not knowing whether camps, summer schools, pools, and playgrounds will be open after the school year ends. Though the prospect of a summer of agonized choruses of “I’m bored!” might be more daunting than a summer of more social distancing, we might actually find ourselves confronted by something we desperately need: An opportunity to play.

Play is difficult to define, at least according to the academics who study it. Broadly speaking, it’s an activity that is directed by the individual or at least of their own volition, that is intrinsically enjoyable, personally meaningful, engaging, and most importantly, fun. Kids, of course, know play when they see it. And they know that play has value, even if adults don’t always remember that…Research demonstrates that it fosters development of emotional regulation and executive function — things like problem solving, focusing on a task, paying attention, and making sense of our experience of the world. Very recent research — out just this month — also indicates that how much access small children have to play is an indicator of their own sense of wellbeing. Play is so essential, so integral to normal development and positive mental health, that it is enshrined in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. (However, Wales is the only country that protects that right by law.)

And yet, American playtime is dwindling. Since at least the early 1980s, if not before, child development experts have warned that diminished playtime — and the freedom that entails — is having adverse effects on American children…But the abrupt closure of many schools in March meant that all of a sudden, kids had a lot more undirected, unstructured time, time to not worry so much about achievement and to play. And though this silver lining is perhaps only visible if you squint hard enough, it’s a silver lining nonetheless, because play is even more valuable during periods of stress…And as terrifying as the prospect of a summer of no organized fun seems, remember: It’s all right to let children be bored. “Kids figure out how to play all the time and actually, the figuring it out is building life skills.”


Sesame Street’s Grover On Coping During Coronavirus: Just For Kids

By C. Turner and A. Kamenetz, NPR

Courtesy of Sesame Workshop

“Kids have lots of questions about staying home right now. When can I go out to see my friends again? When will this be over? To answer them (and have a little fun), NPR’s Life Kit reached out to Sesame Street’s beloved monster, Grover, to speak directly to kids.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, at a veterans memorial in Wilmington, Del. May 25, 2020. Credit- Erin Schaff:The New York Times

“What gives me hope is when I see somebody do just the little things they didn’t have to do, to go out of their way,” ~Joe Biden~


5 Ways White People Can Take Action in Response to White and State-Sanctioned Violence –

A portrait of George Floyd is seen as part of a memorial for him Wednesday near the site of his arrest. AP Photo:Jim Mone

“On Monday evening, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. Video surfaced of a white police officer holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes while Floyd pleaded with police saying “I can’t breathe.” Floyd became unresponsive and died shortly after at Hennepin County Medical Center…In this moment, we know there are thousands of white people who are looking for direction and a way to show up alongside Black communities and communities of color. Welcome. You are needed. Here are a few ways to start showing up — not just in words but in action.”  READ  HERE – MEDIUM.COM

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Havestudents to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read.Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Play is a very important factor in child development.
  2. Many parents are at loose ends as summer nears.
  3. Parents dread the agonized choruses of “I’m bored!”
  4. Having bored children can be more daunting.
  5. Children need the opportunity to play.
  6. Play is an activity by an individual and of their own volition.
  7. Play, is a necessary component of building social bonds.
  8. Play is essential to positive mental health.
  9.  In America,  playtime is dwindling.
  10. The abrupt closure of many schools in March meant that  kids had a lot more undirected, unstructured time.

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Some Prepositions: at,as, across, around,by, during,for, from, in, into,of, on,to, over,off, through, up,with, since,

In the early part___ the 2000s, governmental policies prioritized literacy and numeracy skills ___less easily tested skills, such___social-emotional ability, despite warnings ___early childhood education experts and bodies such ___the American Academy___Pediatrics. Average recess time in America — unstructured time___children___ engage___ the kind ___play they want — has shrunk ___just 25 minutes, far less than most other countries___ the world.


Reading Comprehension

Identify TheSpeakers

Directions:Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article tosee if they can identify the speakers.

  1. “Play, she says, is a necessary component of building social bonds, first with parents and caregivers and then with other adults and peers.”
  2. “But play, by its very nature, also prepares individuals to deal with uncertainty and “feel comfortable with risk-taking.”
  3. “Play can also help clarify precisely what those negative emotions are about. Kids can be terrible communicators, but play is their medium.”
  4. “However, none of us should read too much into what we see in children’s play. . . interpreting children’s play is very fraught.”

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use theWH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Havestudents discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Why are parents suddenly worried about summer?
  2. Are you a parent? Do you have the same concerns as the parents in this article? Why or why not?
  3. How do academics define “play”?
  4. According to Laura Huerta Migus, why is playing necessary for building social bonds?
  5. According to researchers play fosters what other important developments for children?
  6. According to the article, since the 1980s playtime has been diminishing in America. What are some of the reasons for this?
  7. What kind of effect is reduced play having on American children? Do you agree with this statement? Why/why not?
  8. In the article there are ways to allow children to have fun especially during this time of social distancing from their playmates. Name some of the ways.
  9. Can you think of other ways to make fun things for children to play?
  10. What new information have you learned from this article?


Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas  you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things  that  you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.