“Teaching is not telling; teaching is guided discovery.” — Lynn Staley
Play is children’s most useful tool for preparing themselves for the future and its tasks. Flexible thinking, communication, transformations, combinations, fantasies, emotional stresses and delights, human relationships, compassion, movement and creative pursuits all occur in play. Children advance into new stages of mastery through play, practice and the pursuit of their own interests. Play is central to learning for young children. It contributes to their social, emotional, cognitive and physical development.
Through play, WPELC provides meaningful opportunities for:
Why is play so important?
A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2006 pleaded for the restoration of play to develop social-emotional skills such as building resilience, managing stress and forming relationships with adults and peers.
Children’s early social and emotional relationships shape them for life. Today, there is a growing awareness among early childhood and other professionals such as pediatricians and parents, among others, that social-emotional learning is equally, if not more important than early academics in determining school readiness. A good beginning in a school environment affects not only whether young children succeed in school but also whether they will grow up to have rewarding personal and work lives, and contribute to society.
W. Barnett, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research says, “One misconception about preschool education is it’s mostly about giving children and early start on the academic skills they’ll need later. Maybe it’s because early reading and math skills are more easily assessed. Whatever the case, we run the risk of shortchanging the role preschool preschool education plays in the broader cognitive, social, and emotional development in young children.”
Most effective teaching for young children should emphasize activities and techniques that are congruent with children’s play such as:
- Learning through active rather than passive activities
- Learning through concrete experiences
- Learning through cooperation and dialogue rather than individualized and competitive modes
- Learning that integrates skills and subjects rather than in separate segments by curriculum area
- Learning that encourages individual autonomy and choice rather than dependence on teacher direction
These are also part of the position statement on developmentally appropriate practice for children from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Play for Social Development
During play, children have many opportunities to interact with others. They learn to collaboratively plan, problem-solve, share, express their thoughts and feelings, listen to others, lead, follow, negotiate and take turns. During play, children are actively engaged within a social context. Through play, children acquire the social skills that they need to get along with others.
Play for Emotional Development
Play contributes to the child’s emotional development by providing a safe avenue for children to express themselves, explore feelings, take initiative, “try on” powerful roles, fulfill wishes, take risks and safely make mistakes.
Play for Cognitive Development
During play, children have many opportunities to use divergent thinking, express themselves creatively, learn concepts and develop language skills. Children continually explore solutions to problems as they play. If a child is building a bridge in the block area, for examples, she/he may try many different ways to keep the bridge from collapsing. Play provides an avenue for conceptual development. For example, during water play, the child develops the concepts of mass, volume and the nature of change.
Play for Physical Development
Young children’s physical development is occurring very rapidly. During play, children have many opportunities to practice large and small muscle skills. They may choose to play a game of tag, climb a tree or walk on the balance beam. They may practice their small motor skills through “writing” down someone’s breakfast order in the dramatic play area, or string cheerios to make a necklace.
How do you approach conflict in the classroom?
When children are experiencing a conflict we support them in a way that not only solves the problem at hand, but helps them with the long-term task of developing the skills which they need for resolving conflict in positive and constructive ways on their own. To assist preschool children effectively in their attempts to resolve conflict, it is important to remember where young children are developmentally. We help children understand the problems that cause their conflicts in ways that make sense to them. For many children, this means helping them define their problems in terms of physical objects and concrete actions. For example: “There’s a problem. Both of you want to use the truck and there is only one.” This helps the child understand what the problem is and that the problem is a shared one. After the problem is clearly stated, we ask them how they are going to solve the problem. During this time, we encourage them to talk to each other. We are always prepared to offer suggestions if needed. By defining the problem that causes the conflict in terms of physical objects and concrete actions, and by brainstorming solutions, children develop problem solving skills that they can use to resolve their conflicts independently.
What does developmentally appropriate practice mean?
At the heart of the developmentally appropriate practice is the knowledge and respect of child development. Developmental research indicates that there are universal, developmental sequences of growth which occur in all developmental domains: social, emotional, cognitive and physical. Although these predictable patterns of growth serve as a framework towards the understanding of child development, it is critical to understand that children are individuals. They enter the classroom with their own interests, needs backgrounds, learning styles and rate of development. Developmentally appropriate practice not only looks at age appropriateness, but individual appropriateness as well. Teachers provide a supportive environment with intervention and instructional strategies that meet the individual needs of children.
How will my child learn in a multi-age classroom?
Multi-age grouping allows children to learn from each other, creating an atmosphere that is more like the real world. Older children get the opportunity to be the leaders while younger children learn from them. Some children are more open to learning from an older child versus and adult. When admire the actions of their peers, children tend to imitate them. Multi-age classrooms encourage children to help each other which creates n enriched, cohesive learning community.