Playing to learn

Last night at the hockey rink the other team didn’t show up. It resulted in exactly what I think that hockey for children should look like. Nine skaters, three goalies all out on the ice playing. Skating for a half an hour straight. Having fun. Pond hockey. This what hockey is all about.

They learned more by not taking things seriously

Seriously. This is true. Parents in the stands commented that they played harder against each other than they did against any other team all year. Other parents commented on how much they were learning. They were learning without a teacher. They were learning without instruction. They were learning because they had room to play. They had pleasure to do so. And they played without consequences. They played without fear of mistakes.

We have more room to learn when freed from the tyranny of outcomes

This concept is the basis of holistic education. This is how children can become successful problem solvers and critical thinkers. They played simply for the joy of playing. They engaged in their game with pleasure, not pressure and they excelled because of this.

Some lessons just stick

Sitting in the dressing room talking with another dad, my friend Thomas, we delighted that we were cracking jokes about the battle of Sevastopol and the charge of the light brigade. It wasn’t the loss of life we found delightful. It was the fact that he and I could geek out on history together.

Hut Chin Son

Thomas and I shared a teacher in grade 10 ancient history and again in modern world problems. Clifford Hutchinson. Everyone remembered his name from the pictograms he drew poorly on the board to illustrate how to remember it: picture of a hut, a chin and a young man who was a son – though the young man picture was very poorly drawn and he had to explain it. (In an unrelated fact, I still use pictures and associations when I really want to remember a name or a detail – a skill I picked up from old Cliff, completely unawares)

The best learning is through free play

This is a fact. Well, route learning, drills, control and efficiency can be done through boring, strict repetition. But mammals? We learn most everything important in life through play. Cliff Hutchinson played. I can remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because Cliff played. I can also attest to the fact that Cliff didn’t just impact my life in this way. As soon as his name was mentioned, Tomas and I each lifted a food held one of our ankles and began hopping up and down chanting: ‘Dar es Salaam’ laughing about how we could remember the largest city of Tanzania. On that first day of class? Mr Hutchinson didn’t just teach us his name. He taught us the best way to learn is to laugh and be free. The spirit of Cliff is with me in my therapy practice every day. Listen below to hear my rant about this one.

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