Recently, I was in an early head start site and I observed a toddler, dressed as a doctor, cooking at the play stove, while nursing a baby doll. The teacher asked if the child was a chef and the girl answered, she was a “cooker.” The teacher laughed and said, that’s right you are a doctor, mother, chef. While the girl played and acted out routines she saw when she was at home or with her family in the world, her teacher taught her new vocabulary to describe what was happening.
This is a sight you don’t often see in schools anymore. Why is that and how is it harming the future generations?
Outcomes based learning has hurt play, particularly in early learning classrooms. Teachers are required to prove skills learned and objectives the children have met. Documentation has taken precedence over the process of learning, creating an environment where children regurgitate information without ever knowing how to process, internalize and comprehend what they have heard.
Based from an article retrieved on EBSCOhost
Ready or Not, Play or Not: Next Steps for Sociodramatic Play and the Early Literacy Curriculum: A Theoretical perspective. Dr. Tarsha Bluiett. Reading Improvement, Fall 2018. Volume 55:3, 83-88.
No Child Left Behind, initiated by the Bush administration, while with good intentions, has created an atmosphere where children are continually left behind because teachers are forced to instruct and teach at levels the early learners aren’t ready for.
Beginning with Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s research has repeatedly shown, that play is the work of learning. Meaningful work happens through an environment rich with opportunities for creative play, that will not always inspire children to become lifelong learners, but also aids in the development of the oral, aural and visual skills a child needs in order to make the jump from pre-literacy to emergent reader and finally into independent reader.
Dramatic play encourages the development of language, emotional literacy, cooperation with peers, problem solving and moving from internal thought to externalization of thoughts and back to deeper thinking.
Play, not instruction, fosters this connection.
Social interactions through play provide meaningful ways for children to gain important life and self-care skills and emotional learning all while the imitate and reproduce the world they see around them in the safety of the classroom.
What does this mean for parents of pre-literate children?
- Don’t overschedule. Keep adult led, organized activities to a minimum if at all in the early years of life.
- Make a play friendly space. Kids do not need high tech gadgets or expensive toys. Create a home that allows for exploration of the world indoors and outside.
- Child led. Play shouldn’t be forced, but directed by the child.
- Adults need to remember how to play. When was the last time you played? Or pretended to be someone else? Keep in mind that when our children play, they are working hard at learning. Play as we age becomes a practice in creativity that will atrophy if we don’t practice. While our kids play to learn, we also play to create.
- Gives you time to talk with your child. No need to give commands or directions in play. Let your child be the parent, or the doctor. Find ways to introduce words they may not know naturally in the conversation of play.
Play isn’t only for recess
By creating literacy rich and meaningful play areas pre-literate children build the oral, vocabulary and systems they will use all throughout their life. So put away the flash cards and resist signing them up for another enrichment program. Allow your child the gift of time for play and watch them soar.
Play IS the foundation of school success
For Further information
Check out these websites
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds
Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health