“… never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.” These words keep resonating in my head ever since I read the Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post blog: How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become — from a child development expert (Nancy Carlsson-Paige). Look around…more and more preschool classrooms both in the public schools and private child care programs are reducing the play areas in favor of “work” space. Yet I cannot blame the educators. Parents, principals and administrators are demanding inappropriate academic requirements of preschoolers. They want their children to excel, we all do, but unreasonable demands are turning children off to academics and school in general. What a terrible introduction to formal education. As the author so eloquently states, “Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event.”
My message to early childhood caregivers? Send this post to anyone pushing you to curb play in your programs.