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Let ‘Em Play!

By Debbie Burns and Sylvia Bieniek
Let ‘Em Play!

Play is the foundation for all future learning. It is through play that children develop the many life skills that will make them successful in the future academically, socially, emotionally, physically, and professionally. It is through play that children’s creativity is inspired and risk taking is encouraged. Additionally, children learn to self-regulate their behavior by playing with peers. Through interactive play, children use language to express their wants and needs. As these ludic activities mature, the depth and sophistication of this language increases.
Play is a somewhat controversial topic in some schools in China, particularly in those with a parent clientele that is supportive of a more academic program with more teacher-directed academic activities. Concordia believes that we have the obligation to include play within our schedule to promote the healthy development of the children in our care. It is the effective teacher’s responsibility to provide a stimulating environment, props, literacy materials, and substantial blocks of time for children to participate in socio-dramatic play, thus promoting the growth of the whole child in developmentally appropriate ways.
In their 2010 article in the Early Childhood Education Journal, Rushton, Juola-Rushton, and Larkin wrote that “when children are exposed to caring, imaginative educators who accept the ‘whole child’ and are encouraging of the natural progression of learning, children will feel confident about their abilities, trust their teacher, and in turn, will be more inclined to want to learn.”
It is imperative that we remember that young children learn in different ways than secondary students and both free play and playful learning should command a central role in high-quality education for preschoolers.
In a developmentally appropriate preschool classroom, teachers acknowledge the importance of students attaining some alphabet and phonological understanding as an indicator of future success in kindergarten and beyond. Much of this learning can take place through play or playful learning, however.
We believe the current trend in early childhood programs (birth to age eight) to adopt a more academic curriculum is developmentally inappropriate. Research supports an increasing concern that an exclusive regime of instruction, drill, and testing leaves many preschoolers overstressed, under-exercised, more likely to become anxious and overweight, and basically disinterested in any type of learning. At Concordia we value the creation of environments in which children can “simply be” and not always be getting ready for what’s next.
Rushton, S., Juola-Rushton, A., & Larkin, E. (2010). “Neuroscience, Play and Early Childhood Education.” Early Childhood Education Journal, 37, 351-361.

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