“I’m going to punch their lights out.” 

“It’s all _____’s fault. If s/he just wouldn’t play, it would all be fine.”

“I don’t really want to play, I just want to get _____ out.”

Anger, blame, and resentment are pieces of our human experience and come up for us in the midst of life and play. They come up when we are not getting what we need. We can feel stuck in them, and we suffer if we don’t take steps to reconnect to ourselves and each other. When students began to express thoughts and emotions in this way while ‘playing’ four square a couple of weeks ago, I realized it was an opportune time to revisit our play agreements and culture at Wingra. 

Why do we play together? How do we like to feel when we play? How do we want to feel when we play together? 

I invited students to take deep breaths and close their eyes. Maybe you’d like to do the same. Close your eyes and bring to mind a time when you were lost in play. Maybe you were playing a sport, a school game, a board game. Maybe you were immersed in a movement activity or out in nature. Where were you and who were you with? At home? School? The woods? Camp? With family? Friends? A team? Complete strangers? The trees and the sun? 

Once you’ve settled into this visualization, notice your internal experience. How do you feel? Where do you notice sensation in your body? What words come to mind to describe the feeling of ‘lost in play’ for you?

Students responded with words like





When prompted to add words to describe how we want our play to feel at school, we added




like we’re using our energy

like we belong

like we’re good sports

like we’re challenged

like we’re proud of ourselves

Why do we play together? Because play is joy. Play is expression. Play connects us. Play liberates us. When we feel stuck in miscommunication and emotion, we can bring care and awareness to ourselves as a first step to restoring our relationships and returning to play. True play. The way our kids know deeply and need help finding their way back to sometimes. 

“You’re angry right now. I’m not going to let you hurt anyone. What do you need in order to feel and move through this emotion that’s present for you? A drink? A safe resting spot? Deep breaths?”

“What do you need in order to enjoy this game? How can you communicate that to the people you are playing with? How can you listen to what they need too?”

“It sounds like you could use some help thinking of a different way to play right now. What would you like to do that feels fun, kind, safe, and free?”

Our play agreements poster is a beautiful, wise reminder for us all. The kids and I will use it to set the tone for our play in Wellness and as we navigate agreements for recess play. You are invited to use it at home and as a daily reminder to play.

~Sarah Melton, Wellness Teacher