What’s So Great About Preschool Play?
Arts and crafts, singing, dancing, reading, learning the alphabet and numbers are just a few preschool activities which we include in our daily teaching life. But, what’s so great about preschool play? Just plain old- fashioned play?
When I was a kid there were no tablets, phones or computers. (I know, I’m very old!) When we came home from school we had a snack and went outside. We rode bikes, used chalk on the sidewalk, swung on swings, ran, jumped, threw a ball and stayed outside until dinner time.
Unfortunately, times have changed and what was once safe for children no longer exists. However, parents arrange and supervise play dates which essentially accomplishes the same thing; playing with friends. Play is the single most essential, important developmental tool we can offer kids!
- What Do Parents Think About Preschool Play?
- Is there any value in “just playing?”
- Which skills are used when preschool activities involves play?
What Do Parents Think About Preschool Play?
Today’s parents are enmeshed in the current trending philosophy that their child needs to be the smartest, most creative, best athlete, and overall champion in everything they pursue. The competition among preschoolers, and more importantly their parents, has become the starting point towards achieving excellence in academics geared towards college acceptance. Some parents feel that academics is so vital that they are willing to hire a tutor during the preschool years. Each day is filled with an after-school activity which leads to zero down time to just play.
Parents often ask me ,” Is my child “keeping up” with the other kids in the class?” While interacting and observing children each day, unless I feel that there may be an issue which needs to be addressed or assessed, this is my answer; “Your child is wonderful and having a great year! He/she is learning and exploring on the level which he/she is comfortable. Please try not to compare them to the other children in the class because each child has their own strengths.. Let your child make his/her way through the world at his/her pace with inquisitiveness, curiosity and an understanding that it’s alright to be who they are. I am here to guide him/her towards an understanding of his/her capabilities and to offer challenges in every area of development. If there is any need for concern in any area, I promise I will make you aware of them.”
Is There Any Value In “Just Playing?”
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Play is one of the ways children learn! Free play or free choice allows each child to make decisions and learn about their world. Unstructured play offers a child opportunities to problem solve and negotiate. Play is the way children gain many skills which can’t be taught, rather learned through interaction with peers. For example, playing in a dramatic play area with others encourages socializtion, playing fair and imagination.
While it’s true that academics are important, collaboration and cooperation with your peers are essential life skills which are utilized throughtout our lives.
Social interactions with preschoolers are not always calm. There may be tears or physical moments when each child is trying to express their needs and opinions. Allowing children to verbalize their view points in any given situation encourages them to listen to others as well as communicate their ideas. Through this process they are offered the opportunity to empathize with their friends and perhaps realize that they can’t always have things their way.
Unstructured physical play such as climbing, running, jumping, swinging and throwing a ball help to strengthen a child’s gross motor skills. Riding a bicycle or tricycle is a fabulous activity which involkes imagination as well.
Which skills are used when during preschool play?
- OBSERVATION SKILLS!
- TACTILE STIMULATION!
- HAND-EYE COORDINATION!
- FINE MOTOR SKILLS!
- SHAPE, SIZE, LOCATION OF OBJECTS!
- FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!
- SOUND RECOGNITION!
- PROBLEM SOLVING!
- LEARNING THROUGH TRIAL AND ERROR!
- SOCIAL INTERACTION!
- STRENGTHEN SMALL AND MOTOR SKILLS!
- FORM ATTITUDES ABOUT THEMSELVES AND OTHERS!
- INCREASES SELF- CONFIDENCE!
- VERBAL COMMUNICATION!
- CONFLICT MANAGEMENT!
- MY IDEAS HAVE VALUE!
If you think about it, preschool play encompasses every aspect of child development. Structured play or learning centers offers children the freedom to make choices and take responsibility for themselves. It empowers them to feel good about themselves and build self confidence.
I’m not saying that every parent should remove their child from all after-school and weekend activities. But, perhaps as early childhood educators we can make it a prority to help parents understand the value of plain old-fashioned preschool play!