Anyone who loves a child, whether it’s your own or your students, knows the importance of play for play’s sake. Children have energy, enthusiasm and curiosity only quenched by play. Anyone who has spent time with a child who hasn’t been able to play can tell the immediate impact: they’re cranky and bouncing off the walls.
But play is also important and influential in all areas of development.
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(This page will stay a work in progress, so if you don’t find links to something you want more information on, come back. Or you can email me and we can chat about it)
Here are just some of the ways play is beneficial to child development…
- They learn how to delay gratification, which has been shown to have long-lasting positive impacts on academics and emotional control.
- Play helps them come to understand and handle their big emotions.
- They learn that the world is an ok place and that they get to be happy here.
- Children going through emotional trauma are found to process it through play.
- They learn confidence and self-esteem.
- Friendship connections and connecting with family
- Making up and following rules
- Solving problems
- Sitting at circle
- Overcoming social struggles that lead to behavioral problems
- Learning how to learn.
- That through repetition, they improve.
- They are enticed to learn more when we follow their curiosities.
- They learn skills that will later lead to academic skills, such as fine motor skills that lead to a good pencil grip, or excitement around books that lead to reading.
- Geometry when they put puzzles together.
- Early literacy skills
- Developing attention spans and the ability to become engrossed in an activity.
- Language development
PHYSICAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT
- They develop healthy habits and bodies through fresh air and exercise
- Large motor development
- Fine motor development
- Controlling their bodies
The is the argument I hear the most against play-based learning is “But they need to be prepared for Kindergarten.” These people think that direct instruction methods with desk time and worksheets are the best way to prepare them. The thing is, play is better for academic success than direct-instruction styles. This was what I devoted my senior year in college to, and I was unable to find any evidence that showed academic preschools being better for academic success. If you know of a legitimate study that shows this, please send it to me! Honestly, I want to learn and know every angle of this.
This is some of what I’ve found on Play-based learning vs. Direct Instruction for Kindergarten Readiness
- At best the direct-instruction style preschools prepare the children better for kindergarten academically, but those advancements balance out by 1st grade and the child suffers mentally, emotionally and behaviorally throughout elementary school.
- One study showed that children who feel successful on the playground feel successful in the classroom. When the children felt successful in the classroom they were successful in the classroom. These feelings of success lasted throughout elementary school.
- Surveys of kindergarten teachers have found that the main things children need to be kindergarten ready are not academics. The skills they need are
FOR THE SAKE OF CHILDHOOD
Play is not extra. It’s not the bonus that children get once they’ve finished working the mines and filling out their worksheets. It is the heart of childhood.
Personally, I believe in playing for life. But early childhood is all about playing. They’re learning how to exist and how to be people. That requires experimentation, following whims, being curious, and being silly. In the words of Mr. Rogers, “Play is the work of childhood.”
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