Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Children’s play and play-based learning should be the fundamental philosophy behind early learning environments...

Whether by necessity or choice, the majority of parents work and many depend upon formal, organized out‐of‐home care.  Offering quality child care that supports the child’s natural desire to play and provide an environment that is intentional about creating opportunities for learning through play helps create a common good society.  Quality early care and education programs that follow a pedagogy of play support a child’s optimal development and readiness for success in school. Longitudinal research
(e.g. Chicago Child‐Parent Centers, High/Scope Perry Preschool and Abecedarian Projects) shows that children who attend high‐quality preschool programs are less likely to be placed in special education; less likely to be held back a grade; and more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

A play-based child care program, like the one You’re Invited provides, is one that allows children to learn at their own individual pace through the natural process of play.  The profound benefits of this type of learning environment are losing ground to adult-directed, instruction based philosophies.  Important life-long skills such as problem solving, emotional development, divergent thinking, analytical skills, etc are being put to the side for worksheets, drills, table work and other developmentally inappropriate teaching styles.

Problem solving, for instance, involves an element of risk. If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). In a play-based curriculum, each day provides opportunities to learn about reading, writing, and math through real, meaningful situations. For instance, children set the table for snack so each child has one napkin, one straw, and one box of milk. Children string beads to match the pattern on a card or wait their turn because there is room for only four children at the art table. Through these meaningful experiences children begin to understand number, quantity, size, and other mathematical concepts.

It is clear the expectations of our society are changing and our culture is becoming increasing focused on specific functional skills such as arithmetic and pre-literacy as the objective of pre-kindergarten learning environments.  We feel children’s play and play-based learning should be the fundamental philosophy behind early learning environments and will continue to offer an environment that is proven to provide the most solid foundation for acquiring these functional skills when developmentally appropriate. 

Fordham, A.E. & Anderson, W.W. (1992). Play, risk-taking, and the emergence of literacy. In Play's place in public education for young children, edited by V.J. Dimidjian, 105-114. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

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