I recently posted about having a classroom consisting only of boys this year and how their play (compared to a classroom with a mix of boys and girls) gravitated more towards “big body play”.
Rolling, running, crawling, and general horseplay are all common large motor activities one would find in our classroom at any given moment. Superheros are a popular interest in the class right now. Rushing across the room to help a friend in need is a common occurrence. Outdoors it continues with jumping, crashing, climbing and chasing.
When the school year began, my co-teacher and I found ourselves often reminding the boys of “safe bodies”, “giving each other space” and “gentle hands” without looking into how or why they were playing this way. Like many teachers, we just wanted to keep everyone safe and to send them home in the exact condition in which they were left with us. Since this is a group very much interested in wild animals and dinosaurs, we thought, “Before asking them to stop, let’s really take a look into what they are saying and doing while they play this way”. Obviously, we had some reservations, but when it came time to observe we noticed their play wasn’t aggressive, no one was getting injured, and everyone was happily participating. We overheard dialog such as “I’m pretending I’m a lion”, “I’m a black panther”, “We are the mommy and daddy looking for predators”, “I’m the dad and these are my cubs.” Looking into the research into Big Body Play and reading about it more, we learned the benefits of this kind of play. Some of the benefits included developing spacial awareness, problem solving skills, self regulation, and their overall physical health.
Big body play does not have to look like a wrestling match. When appropriate, monitored, and mindful, Big Body Play can help children learn, grow and explore their current and common interests.