Is Play Endangered by “Good” Preschools

At dinner last, my friend Alex made a comment about his niece and nephew that really struck me. His sister has decided not to put the twins in a “good” preschool, one with an academic focus, but rather one that focuses on play.

So, of course I say:

A) Good for her; and

B) Why on Earth would a preschool that focuses on play not be considered good?

As I quoted in my first post, “Play is the work of children.” – Friedrich Froebel

According to a host of contemporary and historical experts, including the pioneering developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, play is the leading source of development in the preschool years. Piaget studies taught us about child development through play, while Parten went beyond that to emphasize the role of play in teaching children how to relate to others.

It used to be that the academic fast-track started in middle school, then elementary school, and finally it has reared its ugly head in preschool. It’s astonishing and, frankly, very sad. It also isn’t necessary.

Three year-olds do not need to study Mandarin Chinese or be involved in five different enrichment programs to have an advantage in the academic world. Children can go to “good” preschools that emphasize play, and thrive in the process. You are NOT a bad parent for taking that route. In fact, The Grass Stain Guru will give you a gold star if you do.

Today, groups including The Alliance for Childhood and The National Institute for Play (both featured in the Play-Friendly links section), are working to restore play in schools as well as educate parents, caregivers, and parks and recreation professionals in the art, joy, and science of unstructured play. I am so thankful for the work they are doing, and hope that parents and professionals alike will take note of the importance of play in the education and development of children. Not to mention their happiness. As a society, that is a goal we should all have.

Of course, where and how you educate your child is up to you. That said, I do hope you will investigate the power of play and take a honest look at the options available to your child for their education and development, and of course, their happiness.

Now, go outside in play. Remember, it’s good for you!

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru.

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