A recent article in the NYT and a 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics study remind us of the importance of play. Both the article and study emphasize playful learning as critically important for the developing child. Other countries like China and Finland are shifting away from over-testing, academic rankings and high-achievement to “purposeful play” and having great results and outcomes for kids.
I have long been a fan of the Reggio Emilia approach out of a small town in Italy. In these programs, teachers are facilitators of the learning process. The instruction is student-centered and focused on the child’s interests. In a Reggio-inspired school, you will see children exploring, hypothesizing, questioning, discussing and debating their ideas in collaborative ways. What you will not see are worksheets, flashcards and standardized tests.
Many children in the United States actually begin SAT prep and tutoring as early as fourth grade. While we are focusing on test preparation, our children are missing out on a critical ingredient in their education and in their childhood - PLAY!
Could the lack of play be contributing to the increase in diagnosed cases of mental health disorders, depression and anxiety in our preschool and elementary school children? Our children, families and teachers are stressed out.
In Finland, they focus on play, the arts and creating joy in learning from early childhood through high school. Children are assessed daily to gauge their progress, but not in the form of high stakes testing.
Our children need MORE:
Indoor & outdoor PLAY
Self-directed intellectual & physical activities (children’s choice time not teacher-directed activities)
Learning should be fun and play should be the heart of a child’s education! The early years are the best time to foster a love for learning in our children. If we took lessons from other countries concerning the connection between learning and play, we might have less stressed-out and anxious children and PARENTS, too.
Do you have an example of play-based learning? Send to Lorie at firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture. We will give you a shout out on social media.