Should Kids Play in School? {Stretch and Connect Builders Review}

Lakeshore Learning asked me recently if I would like to review one of their products.  I decided I wanted to try Stretch and Connect Builders, they looked fun and I wanted to breathe new life into my Free-Time Fridays!  Yes, I allow my students to have about an hour of free time on Fridays.  
They play.  They have fun.  They talk.  They laugh.  They interact with each other in an unstructured way.  They enjoy it.  Shhh….please don’t tell anyone!

They create.

It makes me sad to know that I feel guilty for letting my kids play.  I think play is one of the most valuable ways children learn, especially in the early grades.  I understand rigor and standards…I understand kids need to learn more than they’ve ever been expected to learn at an earlier age. I get that it’s important.  But so is play!
Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox (temporarily, more of it at the end of this post!!)
Back to the review:
The first one to test them out was Jack.  He didn’t really pay attention to the box at first, but once he did, he was SOLD.  He built a turret.  He refused to let anyone take it apart.  I think that means that I made a good choice, don’t you?

Then he made adjustments:

Jack tested, Jack approved.  Thank you Lakeshore for giving me the opportunity to try them out and give my kids another way to play!

Now before you go tattling on me about allowing my kids to play, take a moment and watch this 
TED Talk about the four letter word we don’t allow in schools enough: PLAY!


  1. I enjoyed reading your review on the stretch and connect builders – I think I may just have to purchase them for myself! I'm more into "play" in the classroom when it is somewhat creative, such as building with pattern blocks, doing puzzles, and using some of these great creative thinking toys from companies like Lakeshore and Learning Resources. I become wary, though, when teachers provide too many "toys" during free choice or indoor recess. While it's possible to be creative with cars and action figures and polly pockets, I don't really think they have a place in my classroom.

    Just my two cents!

    Paiges of Learning

  2. I totally agree with you!! Kids definitely need time to play in first grade, especially at the beginning of the year. It's a great way for them to make friends and practice their social skills. I always have free time Fridays too (until winter when we have constant indoor recess… Then I can't handle any more free time!! Lol). Don't feel guilty! 🙂

    First Grade Garden

  3. I love that your students get some play time on Fridays! I always let mine have 30 min to an hour of Fun Friday time, too! In my inclusion room, it was critical socialization practice for many of my students. I was always amazed at the things they could create with blocks, mosiacs, and tangrams. So, please don't feel the least bit guilty! For many kids, it may be the only time they get to experience free play with educational toys because they don't have access to things like that at home. Thanks for reminding everyone that these kiddos are 6 or 7 years old! They need time to play!

  4. Absolutely! My perspective is from a speech/language pathologist. Social skills, creativity, vocabulary, movement, imagination…these are all building blocks to academic learning and can be fostered through opportunities to play. Think about us as adults. We are productive educators but are we serious and rigorous EVERY single moment? Of course not. We need brain breaks too. Sometimes I stop doing my mundane IEP paperwork and color some new materials…That is my fun Friday play time 🙂 As an SLP, I learn so much about my students' interests and strengths by observing them in play. My job role is so focused on improving their needs, so it is important to see them shine as well. Keep following your instincts 🙂 Emily

  5. I do something called "Social Hour" in my room every morning before the final bell. They get to go to a "play" station and do legos, playdoh, puzzles…until the final bell. It was also my way of encouraging my kids to get to school on time – ha! but they LOVE it! Kids need to play. they are KIDS.
    ♥ Jen
    Teacher by the Beach
    A Splash of Life Blog

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