Not too long ago, the Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, New York canceled its annual kindergarten show. Why? Children need to focus more on studying!
As absurd as it sounds, American preschools and elementary school programs have become increasingly academic, with more focus on intellectual learning. The trend is seen across the country, and children are under pressure to perform well in standardized testing, as well as school-readiness evaluation, after kindergarten.
While academic learning in early childhood education is crucial for defining the future of young minds, it can’t simply be promoted at the expense of courses such as arts and music or structured play activities and recess time.
Let’s take a look at how play and supplementary activities in preschools and kindergarten shape children’s lives for better!
Motivation and Interest
Children start learning through exploration and discovery from the very beginning. Take a 5-month-old baby boy who is learning to sit independently. From finding nearby pillows for back support to adjusting in the corners of couches and chairs for a stabilized posture, he’s likely to use most of his brainpower to discover this marvel.
On the other hand, if parents keep pushing him to sit or want him to achieve this milestone than he’s supposed to, a likely result will be constant crying and in severe cases, loss of interest in sitting in one place. Negative reaffirmations don’t work for long-term and healthy achievements and the same goes for preschool curriculums.
Children who are pushed beyond their limits to finish homework, take exams, or limit play times often lose all the motivation to perform even bare minimum. If tracing the alphabets is currently a fun activity for your 3-year-old daughter, increased pressure to do it every day for hours will just make it unbearable for her. Not to mention, she won’t have any motivation to actually learn or retain something from the tasks.
Social and Emotional Skills
Academic-focused programs pay little to no attention toward the socio-emotional development of children. If your child isn’t getting the opportunity to play with their peers, talk to them, engage with them in group play times, they’ll have a limited understanding of social skills.
Playing with others, sharing toys, taking turns, and learning problem-solving are important life skills that mastering math equations can’t replace.
Story times in kindergarten introduce children to a range of emotions that they already know but don’t recognize. Asking children to make a happy face when they feel good and excited or making surprised eye movements during an interesting turn of events helps them observe, adopt and fully understand emotions. This is critical in teaching children empathy without the need of words and verbalized thoughts.
Play activities that may look meaningless to parents, academic administrators and curriculum designers can, in fact, be vital in laying the foundation of wellbeing and shaping a positive character for young learners.
If you have ever watched a three or four-year-old play on their own without any directions or limitation on the objects involved in the play, you’ll notice their talents and train of thought. This can include anything from naming the nearby objects and using them to advance or change the nature of play (pretending that the TV remote is an ice-cream, etc.)
Play is just as important as academics and often more important for character development, emotional wellbeing and health outcomes in adult life. This is why the Whole Child Development Center offers play-based learning balanced with academics in its preschool and kindergarten programs.