In the history of educational psychology, there’s plenty of evidence that supports learning through play. But the American culture, and a focus on testing in schools, has distorted our idea of play and the benefits of play in education. We talked to Jed Dearybury, author of The Playful Classroom and The Power of Play for All Ages, about how bringing play into classrooms – no matter the age or level – leads to deeper, more engaged and more joyful learning. Here are five quick points from our conversation.

Play allows us to let go of self-criticism and fear.

Students (and teachers too!) can get lost in the flow of playfulness and let go of self-criticism and fear, thanks to the feel-good chemicals released in the brain when engaged in play.

A playful classroom is an empathetic and compassionate classroom.

Students in an empathetic, compassionate classroom feel free and safe to take learning risks, rather than do exactly as the teacher said, because they know their ideas will be embraced and accepted.

Students take ownership of learning in a playful environment.

Once we give students the freedom and permission to take learning risks, they will level it up with their own ideas, fostering a sense of pride and ownership.

Play gives teachers the freedom to listen in and focus on students.

If we're delivering a PowerPoint, we're focused on the PowerPoint. Are the words spelled right? Is the pacing appropriate? But when we’re right there beside the students, we get a first-hand account of their academic ability and social skills, for a better understanding of their strengths and opportunities for growth.

Being playful helps create an emotional connection to the learning.

Scientifically speaking, if we have an emotional connection to the learning, we remember it better. For example, the alphabet. Most of us have an emotional connection to the ABC song, because someone probably cheered and sang along as we learned it. When we ask someone to say the alphabet, they'll probably sing it, even as an adult.

Listen to the full episode of Notes From The Staff to hear Jed describe the power of play in greater detail, and the steps you can take to build a playful learning environment.

Notes From The Staff is a podcast from the creators of uTheory. Join us for conversations about pedagogy, music theory, ear training, and music technology with members of the uTheory staff and thought leaders from the world of music education. Subscribe to Notes From The Staff on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.