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Keep play in preschool

Date:2015-07-02 05:07:59 Views:361

Just 30 years ago, 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. Today, this number has fallen to just 25 percent (Miller & Almon, 2009). Over the years, play has taken a back seat to early academic preparation. But does reducing play in preschool benefit children academically and socially?


Recent multidisciplinary research finds that preschool children who engage in various forms of open-ended play display more complex language skills, more developed social skills, greater levels of empathy, higher levels of creativity, and better-developed interpersonal skills. Additionally, preschool children who spend more time playing are less aggressive, exhibit higher levels of executive function, display more complex thinking skills, and have brains with more complex neurological structures (Miller & Almon, 2009).


Longitudinal research challenges an academic focused preschool method at the expense of more play-based approaches. One study compared 50 play-based classes with 50 academically focused classes and found that by age 10, children immersed in a play-based approach excelled over the others in reading and math skills, and were more socially and emotionally adjusted (Darling-Hammond & Snyder, 1992).


In addition, nations like China, Japan, and Finland, which are touted for their exceptional international math and science assessment scores, boast preschools that are playful and experimental, not didactic.


Play serves as a powerful engine that drives learning in the preschool years and beyond. Children whom experience play-based preschool programs boast a strong advantage over those who are denied play and are more likely to become happy, healthy, well-adjusted grownups.


Here are 16 play types identified by Hughes (2011) that illustrates the dynamic learning that children can experience each day in quality play-based preschool programs:


Symbolic play – a broom stick becomes a horse

Rough and tumble play – play sparring

Socio-dramatic play – pretend play

Social play – playing with rules

Creative play – using creativity

Communications play – word play, jokes

Dramatic play – performance

Deep play – risky play

Exploratory play – experimenting

Fantasy play – rearranging things in imaginative ways

Imaginative play – pretending

Locomotor play – chasing, swinging, climbing

Mastery play – digging holes

Object play – exploring the potential of various objects

Recapitulative play – damming streams, growing food

Role play – exploring other ways of being


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