Unfortuntely, as former early childhood educator this is a topic that hits close to home. It was the topic of every open school night & the underlining theme of each of my school days. Parents sadely often viewed our two and half hour time in PreK as a waste of time; just because we had creative play centers & we wouldn't drill & kill sight words into their child's minds, their child wasn't learning anything. However, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
In an article in The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg states that free-play is “essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” He continues by explaining how free, undirected play enables children to use their creativity to interact with others and the world around them; it allows them to work in groups of their choosing, to negotiate situations, to solve problems, to learn advocacy skills, to grow and develop at their own pace and thereby build self-confidence and discover critical aspects of themselves, for instance their likes and dislikes. It’s harrowing to think that Ms. Moskowitz and her supporters are called educators when they deliberately want to eradicate play and harm the cognitive, mental and emotional component of a child’s life. Why? We ask.
Much of the perception of play as something useless or rather something that could be removed from childhood reaches back to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which radically reduced time given to recess and the creative arts in the hope of boosting the nation’s pitiful math and reading scores. But that did not happen. In addition to taking away children’s free-play, the act, for the most part, has failed to produce any significant sustained results aside from narrowed curriculums, educator resentment, and teaching to the test. Perhaps Ms. Moskowitz believes that longer days will produce the results that No Child Left Behind failed to produce.
But they won’t. All longer days will produce are frustrated and over tired children, because as Ginsberg point outs, decreasing time for free-play has effects “on children’s ability to store new information, because children’s cognitive capacity is enhanced by a clear-cut and significant change in activity.” The “change in activity” that he is suggesting is not more academics or adult controlled play, rather it’s play free from the rules and concerns of adults. Sadly, it seems that the political power of Ms. Moskowtiz combined with the Department of Education’s obsession with test scores will prevail in lengthening school days and subsequently changing the landscape of childhood.
One question that always pops into my mind is "why do young children's (under five) absorb so much information so naturally?" and the only answer that makes sense...is because, under five years of age, they LEARN THROUGH PLAY! This is why I can't help but to include in my weekly newsletter, playful ways to keep your child busy at home & extend learning concepts while having fun!
Articles on the Importance of Play:
Kids Discover Nature: 10 Reasons Why Kids Should Play Outside
Scientific American: The Serious Need for Play
HealthyChildren.org: Caution! Children at Play
Education.com: Why is Play Important
EarlyChildhood News: Take it Outside