Early childhood play key in learning academicsMany parents are concerned about their child’s ability to succeed in school. Parents often want preschools and child care programs to prepare their child for academic work and are worried if children are not learning letters and numbers in the preschool years. Worksheets and ditto pages are a necessary part of school readiness.
Many parents are concerned about their child’s ability to succeed in school. Parents often want preschools and child care programs to prepare their child for academic work and are worried if children are not learning letters and numbers in the preschool years. Worksheets and ditto pages are a necessary part of school readiness.
It is important to remember that children do not have to be made ready to learn — they are learning from the moment of birth. Young children learn by doing, by being actively engaged with the people and objects in their world. To understand how things work and relate, children must actually touch and manipulate. Children allowed to safely explore and experiment become enthusiastic learners; they see themselves capable of thinking and problem solving. These are important skills for success in school.
Some early childhood programs promote workbooks, memorization of the alphabet or numbers, even drills and tests. However, these programs are robbing children of something very important — the ability to think, reason and solve on their own. Children who are rushed into academic learning suffer later on because they lack the foundation on which true learning is based. Children need real experiences with real objects to understand abstract concepts presented later in school. They need to mash play dough to develop the muscles necessary to hold a pencil. They need to sort, add to, take away and pile blocks to understand the meaning of basic math concepts. Without the concrete, real-life experiences of early childhood play, children may give the correct answers to academic questions, but probably won’t really understand what they are doing and why.
Children who are pushed into academic learning during the preschool period may lose their enthusiasm for learning. However, children who are given plenty of time to play, learn to ask their own questions and find their own answers. These are the skills that lead to true success in school and beyond. For more information contact your local Child Care Resource & Referral.
(Jung is a child care specialist for Region 6 Child Care Resource and Referral. Region 6 includes a nine-county area: Stutsman, Barnes, Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Griggs, LaMoure, Logan and Wells counties.)