Let your Preschoolers Play!



Preschoolers need to be able to move, play, explore and have a sense of belonging and security. When it comes to preschool, my hope is that my son learns how to play, appropriately interact with others, uses his imagination, feel a sense of safety, connect to nature and the world around him, explore and most of all have fun! Children grow up so fast and one of my biggest pet peeves are parents and schools that feel they need to focus on academics as soon as possible.  It is so important to understand that early exposure to academics in preschool has no indicator on educational achievement in the long run. As a teacher, parent and educational consultant I have a passion for understanding how children learn and exploring how we connect children’s heart to learning! 

Exposing children to story time is very different than berating them with flash cards and formally teaching them decoding skills. The single biggest predictor of high academic achievement is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not light up toys or computers, but mom and/or dad taking the time every day to sit and read them books. Children are like sponges, they have a natural curiosity and want to understand the world around them. Teaching them to love literature by listening to stories, looking at the pictures, talking about the characters, will help them connect in a more organic way to reading (when the time is right).

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We have to understand that play is learning! A short snip-it of this poem  called,”Just Playing” says it all:

When I’m building in the block area,
Please don’t say I’m “just playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play,
About balances and shapes.
Who knows, I may be an architect someday.
When I’m getting all dressed up,
Setting the table, caring for the babies,
Don’t get the idea I’m “just playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play;
I may be a mother or father someday.

 

The expectations in Kindergarten now a days are very different then it was 15-20 years ago. There is an expectation now in Kindergarten that they can read and write in a way that was more appropriate for a 1st or 2nd grader, back when I was a kid. Because of this academic focus, preschools now want to turn their attention and focus on “Kindergarten Readiness”.  I remember my boss at the Education Consulting Firm I worked at told me that during his PhD studies he came across a piece of research that shows that if Child A goes into Kindegarden not knowing any academics and Child B goes in knowing a good amount of academics,  statistically by 2nd grade there is no distinction between them, in terms of academic achievement. 

One of the most extensive studies took place in Washington, D.C. over 5 years. Too many students were being retained in kindergarten and the school district wanted to know why they were not succeeding. Rebecca Marcon, Ph.D., decided to study the preschool and kindergarten classrooms and found they fell into three categories: child- centered (play-based); teacher-centered (direct academic instructions such as memorization and work sheets); and a combination. The researchers looked at this large number of students again in 4th grade. Students who were in the play-based programs in their early years did substantially better than those in the academic programs.

If we focused on “play” rather than academics in preschool we would better incorporate important developmental areas often neglected or ignored by formal curriculum: listening, hand-eye coordination, large motor skills, spatial relationships, personal relationships, knowledge about the physical environment, memory development, imagination, logic and many more. Giving children time in the early years to develop physically, neurologically and emotionally allows them to move into formal academics with a maximum of preparedness and energy.

Your children WILL learn reading and writing….all in the right time! For now, let them be kids and learn by playing :) 

What are your thoughts about your preschooler’s educational experience? Please share in the comments below.