Importance of Play in the Early Childhood Classroom

March Teacher’s Blog-blog

Walk into a kindergarten classroom and you may be surprised that the building block area has been replaced by a computer station, the creative imagination corner now houses the white board, and the sensory sand and water table is now where the desks and tables are for students to sit and do their copious amounts of work sheets. And testing The culture of Early Childhood Education has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Children are playing less, using their imaginations less and spending more time on technology equipment and standardized testing.

Through play, children learn naturally while laughing and having fun.
While early childhood educational specialists continue to expand the potent case for the value of play in children’s lives, the actual time children spend playing continues to decrease. Today, children play eight hours less each week than their counterparts did two decades ago (Elkind, 2008). The anxiety of rising academic standards is pushing play to the back burner in the early childhood years. Play is being replaced by test preparation in kindergartens and grade schools. Well-intentioned parents believe their preschoolers need a leg up in this pressure filled, academically competitive world. They are led to believe that flashcards and educational “toys” are the path to success in the classroom and in life. An unneeded opposition between play and learning has been erected by the false belief that performing well on tests is an accurate depiction of a successful learner.

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Instinctively most early childhood teachers understand that play is a fundamental part of young children’s lives, and that being able to play, both alone and with others, is an assurance of children’s strong development. We also recognize that play improves children’s physical, social/emotional, and creative growth, and we apply day-to-day assessment of this growth by observing children at play.

If a child is laughing, having fun, singing, dancing and imagining, then he is learning. When a child is dancing to the spelling of his name, singing the vowel sounds, spinning and jumping by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s; he is experiencing the JOY of learning. Every teacher and parent’s goal is to instill a love of learning in each child. This love is a gift we all wish to give to our children.

So to all of my brilliant and well-intentioned parents, put away the flashcards, put on the music and bear witness to your children’s growth in all areas of their early childhood development while they dance, sing, build, explore laugh and PLAY!