Here is a great article by Erika Christakis posted on EKidsNews:
I applaud this writer for addressing this issue and opening up the eyes of many parents to the importance of play. Very young children are being pushed to be more studious. Erika put it in a nutshell when she stated, “This pressure to perform academically is resulting in kindergarten becoming the new first grade and preschool becoming the new kindergarten.”
In the 1990’s in my own hometown, they offered a small magazine within the Sunday newspaper. In a summer issue of this magazine, right before the start of the new school year, an article came out that explained how another kindergarten classroom had to be opened up and the school was working on dividing up the children within these three classrooms. They stated that they were finding large gaps between what some of the children knew, compared to their peers. They went on to further explain that the children who had been in a full-day preschool (where they played and learned all day) had a slight advantage over those children who only went to a half-day program. However, they also pointed out that the children that did not go to any early childhood education program seem to be at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Imagine that. Back then preschools used “play” as the vehicle for learning, and even the town was able to see a big difference in the children. Today, things are different.
Some preschools are pushing academics, rather than play. Some say the reason for this is that the parents believe since they are paying for their child’s early childhood education, they should see some academics in it. However, I believe that technology and computers, as well as, President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001 had a big impact on the change in preschools. The No Child Left Behind Act required schools to develop assessments in basic skills. It was supposed to be intended for the Elementary and Secondary Education levels, but it trickled down to the preschool level too, and assessments were created for them as well.
I remember working in a wonderful school that was child focused. The teachers would create a lesson plan, but in the meantime, if we saw that the children had an interest and were passionate about something we would change our lesson plan to focus on the children’s interest instead. For instance, one of the children in the classroom was talking about going camping with his parents (something he had never done before), he was so excited for the upcoming event and soon he had all the other children excited about camping and wondering what it was like. So, the next day, we set up a tent and made “a pretend fire”. The kids collected firewood to place over their camp fire and they pretended to cook their meals. They fished in a pretend pond and slept in sleeping bags. They all got to experience what camping would be like, all due to one child’s excitement of going camping with his parents.
What a great learning experience.
We’ve often heard parents say, “Is that all they do is play?” How a teacher cringes to hear these words! Preschool children should play. It is developmentally appropriate and it’s how they learn. They are developing socialization skills, self-control, self-confidence, manners, and creativity. These are the basic skills that they need to master. This concept is sadly getting lost. Erika is right: by making play more important in your young child’s life, you will change their future!