Here at Good News, we believe very strongly in play-based learning. While some might view play as relief from serious learning, we know that play IS serious learning. It is the work of children. Play comes naturally to children for a reason. It is through play that children interpret and process the world. They create concrete experiences that allow them to later understand abstract ones.
In the past few decades, education has made a shift toward removing play from schools. You rarely still see a home center or dress up center in Kindergarten classes. There is movement towards earlier testing and more time is spent sitting at a desk than ever before. What is this doing for the children later in their lives, to be skipping such an important step in their development? We expect them to be more academically advanced because of this. However, what we are discovering is that children are no more academically advanced. They are simply more stressed and lacking in emotional/social development, making them more prone to anxiety and depression.
Peter Gray, in his article “The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders” in Psychology Today, says: “By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.”
Every day at Good News we witness children taking ownership of their learning experiences as they play. They work through conflict, solve problems, negotiate, and create all through play. Play is the earliest form of storytelling and is a precursor to literacy because it is where they first express symbolic thought.
Take a peek in our classrooms and you’ll see us getting messy, laughing, running, playing instruments, negotiating in the kitchen center, engineering a town out of blocks, painting with unusual materials, pretending to be firemen, and saving the world as superheroes. And we are enjoying every hardworking minute of it!