It seems that an increasing number of preschools across North America are shifting their focus to create a more academically focused environment, but are they taking it too far?
While this is a debatable topic and one with many sides, at SPI Plastics, we feel that playtime is a critical component for preschool programs and shouldn’t be disregarded.
When preschool begins to look more like school and the concentration is on social studies, math and language, there may be too much emphasis on following a curriculum instead of letting children learn in the best way they can: through adequate playtime.
“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world,” says Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.
Why is Play So Critical to Development and What Do Preschoolers Learn During Play?
Language and Vocabulary Expansion
Vocabulary and language skills develop automatically as children interact with other children or during interactions with adults. A child will pay attention and learn new words or phrases without being conscious of it. As new words are picked up and understood, children become more confident in their ability to communicate in the language.
Imagination and Creativity
It seems like our world is becoming more high-tech and fast-paced by the day, which means children may have less chances to practice and develop their imagination unless we give them the proper opportunities to keep their creative mind stimulated. Children who miss these chances to play may have a difficult time entertaining themselves, as they simply do not know what to do without instruction. By providing opportunities for open-ended play, your child will automatically get their creative juices flowing, creating endless possibilities for imaginative inspiration.
Mathematics and Problem-Solving Skills
These skills can be developed at a much younger age than you might guess. Even through playing with something as simple as blocks and puzzles, children can learn to resolve complex problems that arise as they play and discover mathematical skills at the same time. Playtime with puzzles and blocks will greatly aid in learning the basics of these important skills.
Gross and Fine Motor Development
Gross motor skills refer to the large muscles in the legs and arms, while fine motor development refers to the more delicate muscles of the hands that will be used for writing purposes. Active play can offer children a variety of opportunities to work on improving and building these muscles without your child even noticing it’s happening.
Time to Put Your Child in Preschool?
If you’re approaching the time where preparing your child for preschool is around the corner, prior to deciding on your preschool of choice, visit a few contenders to ensure you’ve chosen one that both you and your child will be happy with.
In fact, if you’re looking for a preschool that emphasizes play and has a strong correlation between play and learning, there are certain aspects of play that should be clearly visible upon visiting the facility. What might these include?
Keep an Eye Out for these Classroom Essentials!
Rest Mats and Floor Cushions
For naptime, story time, or playtime, you’ll want to make sure there is access to comfortable sitting areas throughout the room, so children remain relaxed and at ease whether they are in the middle of resting or playing.
Puzzles and Blocks
As mentioned, blocks and puzzles are a great resource to stimulate the mind and encourage engagement among youngsters. Your child will receive hands-on education through building, exploring and playing with both blocks and puzzles. With these items alone, your child will start to comprehend what’s involved in sorting and organizing while also learning about how gravity and balance work at the same time.
Imaginary Play Area
Encouraging the use of one’s imagination is a must-do! Ensure there is a space setup where children can explore and put their imaginary skills to good use. This space should provide costumes, props, and puppets for an all-encompassing dramatic play area. Dramatic play helps children experience real life situations and may teach them to gain confidence in performing their play ideas in front of their peers.
This may go without saying, but there should be a reading nook or two in the classroom so children can constantly learn and develop their comprehension skills through a variety of resources and reading materials. Whether independently or in groups, through discovering words, letters, picture books and storybooks, kids will have fun learning the foundations of this critical life-long skill.
Arts and crafts are a big component in preschool and usually go over well with the little ones! A preschool should have an assortment of art supplies like paint, crayons, construction paper, glue and scissors so your child can easily create and design exciting crafts they can feel proud to bring home with them or display in their classroom.
Music and Instruments
A musical area where kids can explore with different instruments and styles of music should also be included in the classroom. Some preschools will take it a step further and have hula-hoops, dancing ribbons and other musical props to get children dancing and energized as they learn about rhythm, beats, and movement in relation to music.
Outdoor Toys and Play Items
Preschool learning should go beyond the classroom; it’s important that there are enough resources and toys outdoors for children to enjoy and learn from through discovery play. They need to have the time and opportunity to get outside and burn off energy. Look for a preschool that offers wagons, activity panels, slides, climbers, sandboxes, an outdoor playground, and more. These play components keep their bodies moving and their muscles and minds stimulated, which all work together in the developmental process of a young child.
At SPI, we’ve worked with many preschools, designing and installing outdoor play systems that both engage and challenge young children through exploratory activities.
If you’re interested in learning more about our projects and what we feel are critical components in an indoor and outdoor playground, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. We’d be thrilled to discuss any ideas, concerns, or inquiries you might have as a parent or preschool teacher.
Call 519-935-2211 for more information!