Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blog Carnival Post 2: Play and Learn!

Welcome to the 8th Annual Blog Carnival at Childbirth Today!  Today's featured blogger is Betsy Schwartz, creator of Down The Canal.

Many adults think of play as something that kids do. I am here to tell you that playing isn’t just for kids. Play is where all the learning happens.

Children, when allowed to play freely with other children, learn conflict resolution, develop problem-solving skills, build communication skills, practice empathy, develop leadership skills, create community, and so much more.

There are many styles of learning, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.  Most people are a combination of styles with one being the dominant.

When adults are learning a new, not so easy subject, they retain more information when they
are engaged in the learning. By engagement I mean hands on.  Today we have the age of electronics, where many games can and are played online. This only engages the learner with the computer and the information, and leaves out the connection to other people.

Elizabeth N. Treher, PH.D., believes the solution for learning is in taking the approach of hands-on and heads-on. Properly designed board games provide just that for the optimal learning experience. The game has a visual metaphor to connect information, it creates an atmosphere that is engaging and non-threatening. Problem solving and discussions with teammates are all vehicles for the learning.

Questions asked in a game can be a telltale of where more learning needs to take place. A game takes the abstract and makes it concrete, and the game itself supports all learning styles. In addition, while engaging in play learners are required to think critically, and build communication and relationship skills.  Sound familiar? Yes, just how the kids learn!!

Adults want to have fun and play too.  Well-designed board games can be a valuable tool to support learning. One study was done where the information retention was far greater after playing the game, than by simply listening to the lecture. There has been much success in the corporate world with game playing.  See the Learning Key.

Games can be used in learning in other settings as well.  Down the Canal – the Game of Birth is proving this with childbirth education. I created the game to engage pregnant couples and pre-pregnant couples, as well as students in high school, and students of maternal child health in all things birth and beyond.

The game has 240 questions to test your knowledge, and a doula card you can use for a free answer when you’re stumped on a question. Players become involved in what they are hearing, reading, and seeing. They get to roll the dice, move forward, move back, and knock another player back. There is a fun factor along with the learning. One of my goals is to create excitement and interest in learning about pregnancy, labor and birth, breastfeeding, newborn behavior, and more.

I want people who play the game to question everything and want to know more. That’s why my website has evidence-based resources, and a bibliography for further exploration.

The game is not a substitute for a childbirth education class, but an addition to the class or a supplement. If someone can’t make it to a class, Down the Canal is a great way to introduce the many options available in birth, from choosing a provider, to models of care, to informed consent.
I’m on a mission to transform the fear-based culture of birth through education. Only together is this possible.

So far, Down the Canal is being used by doulas with their clients, in doula training, childbirth education classes, teen parent classrooms, and in maternal child health classes with nursing students. The feedback has been incredible.

Two testimonials:
“The fun Candyland meets Trivial Pursuit game brings everything from labor and delivery to learning about doulas forward and makes you excited about learning.” Duke University nursing student
“Very informative and fun. Easy to play and fast paced. I'm going to bring it to prenatal appointment with clients, especially my teen mom clients. I love the game. 5 stars!!!!" Birth Doula, Florida

For more information about me, and about Down the Canal, please visit my website at You can also find me at On Facebook at, Twitter at @betsydoula.  

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