Forget the flash cards, and the ABC homework sheets, if we want to see our children become competent, critical thinking and harmonious human beings, we’ll get off the “fast-food style” of “education” and get back to the basics of learning for young children which is simply PLAY. Ask any leading expert – Dr. Lillian Katz, Dr. Spock, Penelope Leach, Dr. Stanley Greenspan, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Frasier Mustard and any new upcoming researcher they will all agree, prove and promote that: PLAY IS THE WAY TO LEARNING.
Real learning for children and adults is hands on. Regardless of what the media and what “child expert” companies selling extremely expensive gadgets, toys, CD, DVD, you can’t hurry learning, you can not create super babies/children, you can’t give them an “edge” over others – but you can retard the process, produce anxious children, and turn-off children to learning with too much emphasis on ROTE learning – being able to regurgitate 123’s, ABC’s. Child development is DEVELOPMENT. Each and every child goes through stages of growth and they develop. That is the way it is.
This is the time of year that our centres are gearing up for a new year and there are always some teachers and parents alike that want to get “updated”; try something new. That is our nature; that is what we tend to do. However, new and old research stills tells us the same:
CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH PLAY.
So what are they doing? What are they learning?
Play develops curiosity and self determination. Through active exploration of materials attractively displayed, children have to opportunity to explore at their own pace determining for themselves what materials can/can’t do. It is active and it is creative.
Play builds knowledge of ourselves and social relationships. The “Mine/Me” stages has an opportunity to move to the co-operative play stage by interacting with others in games, in manipulative areas, in negotiating for the red block, blue car, leader/follower in the imaginary trip to the zoo. Just like all areas of development, social skills have to be taught, coached and practiced. Play is how children discover what are acceptable negotiation techniques and which are not. Controlling the emotions of rejections, of misunderstandings, frustrations and anger in a safe comfortable way enhances a child’s enjoyment with himself and with others.