A few years ago we moved into a new building. When they ordered the furniture for our classrooms, they ordered the same things for Kindergarten as for Pre-K. We had a science discovery table, an art station, kitchen furniture, lego table. My administrators wanted us to get rid of all those things for our classrooms-because it did not go along with the academics we needed to teach. Well, I stood my ground and those things are still used by my students. The trick is, I went through my objectives to see what I could say the kids were learning in those stations.
Now, we all know that just by playing, students are learning. In our kitchen station for example, they are learning to be parents, to be caring citizens, they are practicing oral language skills. They use the defunct cell phones to yell at their make-believe spouse for being late for dinner. They are acting out what the behaviors they see modeled for them, maybe even things they need to work out. They are also learning how to get along with each other, which we all know most 5-year olds do not excel at coming into the school experience. But unfortunately-there are no objectives for that in our curriculum.
So here's what you can tell your administrators. In the kitchen station we do several things. I have words written on plates-they match the food to the plates-that fits the objective of decoding words. They can also sort the foods based on how many syllables, beginning sounds, etc. For math, I bought those little order pads like waiters use and they make menus and tally orders. After they complete that activity-I let them play for the rest of the workstation time-but they know what to tell someone who comes in and asks what they are learning. They are well-versed in their objectives.
My writing stations are also ways to incorporate play. I have a dollhouse, paper dolls and blocks. They "play" with the items for about 5 minutes and spend the next 5 minutes writing down the story they made up. It's really a favorite with my students, I wonder why.
We practice our math skills with puzzles, chess games and coding activities. Are they playing, yes. Can I find an objective regarding spatial reasoning to go along with it, you betcha! :)
So even though we shouldn't have to sneak play into our daily lessons, because we live in a world where we do--- I hope this gives you some ideas of how to do it.