There is a tug of war in our preschools and kindergartens these day.... common core, competition, and more have increasingly pulled and pulled at the time, freedom, and spirit of PLAY.
Common Core and Competition. Hmmm those are some hefty C's.
They are part of our lives, but let's leave room for play.
Ah, p-l-a-y, a small word with a broad meaning, which Harvard and many other prestigious institutions tell us is UBER important for the brain and social development of our youngest charges!!
But how about these C's: Cognitive Development, which requires play and discovery in such areas as problem solving skills? When you are 4 years old there is not so much social or otherwise trouble shooting on a ditto, but there is much of this happening in the kitchen play center, at the block building construction zone, and certainly on the playground where one must learn the ins and outs of the sand box with 5 of their buddies about.
And how about Curiosity which is tended and given wings through play and open ended opportunities? The nature table, the water sensory bin with new and exciting gems to find with one's cups and colanders....
We teachers must stand up for the importance of PLAY.
We parents are a great support to our children and teachers when we realize the importance of play and we welcome it with open arms, seek it out for our children, and celebrate it each day!
We hear so much about academics. Is this important? YES, of course it is!
For one, I believe in academics, bring them on, baby. But let's look at how that term is defined for our youngest learners according to all of the brain research:
Journals, scientist> they are all shouting LEARN THROUGH PLAY.
In an Early Childhood Classroom, especially of the younger set, to have "Age Appropriate Academics" means PLAY with teacher led awareness, and open ended opportunities.
Yes to one-on-one time with child friendly journaling, yes to maths at circle time with the patterning at our calendars and top down/left to right progression (which TEACHES pre-reading skills), yes to a print rich literacy environment, yes to all of this!!
The idea of journaling is so wonderful, but let's break the mold!! Let's remember that our young learners are ego involved and let's really ride that wave. Johnny wants to show his friends his pet salamander today> Great, let's all make a letter S in our journals and draw a salamander. Then let's each make up a name for our salamanders and the teacher will write those names on our experience chart.
Let math include manipulating oranges and apples, or how about jumping like a kangaroo on the 10 20 30 40 50 number line and then crawling like a turtle on the 1,2,3,4,5 number line, let literacy include tracing a "shopping list" of apples and bananas at the Kitchen play center.
Include the shaving cream play, creating time for making pies in the mud kitchen, and making dress ups available for exploration.
Does it hurt to have a journal and dittos? No. But there is a time for this, and the rest of the majority of the time should support those academics with PLAY PLAY PLAY.
It is what the professionals are telling us...and if we look closely at our children they have been telling us all along as well. ;)