Do you ever worry that your child is just playing and not really learning anything at school?
There is debate brewing in our country about what young children need to be successful academically. In the process, play and academics are being pitted against one another giving parents the impression that they cannot co-exist.
It’s just not true. From the preschool point of view, play and academics go together like peanut butter and jelly. Not only is play the way young children learn best, it also lays a foundation for future academic skills. Early childhood education advocate and blogger Amanda Morgan writes:
“Children singing songs and listening to stories are building critical pre-reading skills — skills that are not just nice, but necessary for them to become readers. Little fingers lining up cars on a mat are building the fine motor skills that will allow them later to hold pencils and master keystrokes. At the same time, this play-work is also helping them build concepts of numeracy, such as a one-to-one ratio as they move cars one by one, or the ability to sort by attributes as red cars and blue cars find separate parking lots, or the ability to compare quantities as they realize their friends have more or less cars piled up than do they. All of these skills need practice and hands-on construction before we introduce the later math concepts that often play out on grade-school worksheets.”
Academic skills are not the only reason why play is so important in preschool. Play fuels curiosity, imagination, practice with social skills and….drum roll...intrinsic motivation.
Maybe the better questions to ask is ourselves as parents are, “What is my child learning in play?” and “How can I support my child’s ability to play?”
You may be interested to know there are some things that compete with meaningful play in a young child’s life. One is access to vast amounts of screen time and the other is proliferation of structured, adult-directed activities for young children. Our advice to you - use these tools sparingly. Do not allow them to squeeze out opportunities for hands-on, open-ended play at home and at the park.