You’re not just imagining it. The pressure to perform academically is increasing all around the country. Everyone, it seems, wants their child to achieve as high as possible academically. And as test scores are becoming increasingly important, the pressure to perform well in school is trickling all the way down to local preschools.
Parents are feeling an urgency to improve their young children’s academic abilities before kindergarten even begins. A 2012 study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found preschools are limiting playtime in favor of academic learning, and that parents of all income levels were pushing for this change. While academics in and of themselves are not bad, they aren’t the only thing a 4-year-old’s life should be focused on. Playtime is crucial at this young age for many reasons.
Playtime at Preschool Provides Smooth Transitions
Being 4 years old is tough. At this age, kids have no control over their life, they understand there are things they can’t have, and even though they really want independence, they also desperately need to be taken care of. Attending a new preschool can be terrifying at this age, but playtime provides the bridge that makes it easier to handle. Play is familiar to a child, which allows a sense of freedom and comfort.
And when other transitions happen in life such as a new sibling being born, a new job schedule for mom or dad, a sick family member or even a vacation, playtime is that safe place where a child feels stability. It provides a way for a child to make sense of everything.
Not Everything Is Learned Through Preschool Academics
Yes, children need to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic. But, happily, there is more than one way to learn these skills. Sitting down to work on letters, numbers, and more is valuable to a preschool aged child, but that same child can learn academic skills while playing make-believe skills like wordplay and plot, as well as language ability. Playing outside gives a child a chance to learn observational skills that benefit scientific knowledge. Building with blocks teaches engineering skills. And don’t forget the importance of social skills, which can be learned through unstructured play.
Preschool Children’s Bodies Need Time to Catch up
Some 4-year-old preschool children struggle to sit still and hold a pencil, and this is perfectly normal. Doing all learning through traditional methods of worksheets at desks, memorization of facts, and more won’t work for active bodies that haven’t developed all fine motor skills (and just want to wiggle). When children are free to move in the way their bodies are meant to move, they develop those critical fine motor skills on their own. Not only that, but they’re happier and in a better place to learn from everything going on around them at preschool.
Preschool Playtime Increases Cognitive Skills
Playtime really incorporates the child’s whole life. It allows preschool children to take experiences from one area and apply them in a new way. This gives them the ability to process information in new and interesting ways. For instance, think of the simple games you played as a child. Hide and seek, for example, required you to look at your environment in a new way as you scanned for a place to hide. It involved counting, and it involved searching as well as plenty of running. Oftentimes, rules for the game would be made up as you go. This is cognitive skill building in action, and it’s necessary to develop the whole child. Quality child care services understand this vital component of a child’s day.
Unique Social Skills Are Learned at Preschool
When your child has the opportunity to play with kids every day, social skills will improve. Kids who play at preschool are exposed to a lot of social interactions and are given the opportunity to evolve and grow socially. In addition, playing with the same group of people at preschool everyday gives children the opportunity to learn more complex social skills such as keeping friends, solving arguments, moving on from hurt feelings, and feeling empathy.
Unique Problem-Solving Opportunities Arise
In unstructured playtime at preschool, kids encounter obstacles they haven’t necessarily been prepped for. This helps them learn how to think on the fly to find a solution. Someone may cut in front of them in the line for the slide, a new friend may want to join a game but doesn’t know the rules, an important toy for an activity may be missing, and so much more. In the moment a child comes up with a solution, he or she may learn new diplomatic skills while addressing the line cutting. Maybe the child will find a new toy to take the missing toy’s place. This kind of problem-solving is invaluable, and it doesn’t happen when kids are sitting at desks in a preschool classroom all day.
Preschool Children Release and Learn About Emotions
When kids are free to run and play, they have the chance to let out all sorts of emotions that otherwise might manifest as angry temper tantrums. They also get to experiment with emotions when they play make-believe. “Trying on” different emotions as they act out imagined scenarios helps them learn to deal with big emotions when they happen in real life. And when it’s time to sit still in circle time, or sit at a desk at preschool to learn some letters? They’ll have the capacity to do it because they already released energy playing.
Healthy Bodies Equal Healthy Brains
Watch preschool children play, and you’ll see they really get a workout! Running, jumping, crawling, climbing – they’re working their muscles in all sorts of ways. As they play, their bodies get stronger, and they are at less risk for developing childhood obesity.
But not only that, their brains reap the benefit of all that strength as well. Regular exercise can improve memory abilities, enhance executive functioning abilities (like handling more than one mental task at a time), improve mood, and so much more. All of this creates a healthy brain that can not only absorb new information about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but can learn to think critically.
It’s Time For Preschool Play Time
Little Academy of Humble is where learning and fun meet. We believe strongly that the best environment for the development of the whole child is one that involves plenty of play. Not only do we schedule plenty of free playtime into our days, we also incorporate interactive experiences and lessons into our preschool academic curriculum. For quality child care services with a perfect mix of fun and education, please give us a call at (281) 459-3378, or request enrollment information online today!