THE VALUE OF PLAY-BASED EDUCATION
June 4th, 2008
It’s 9:00 a.m. and the three quiet rooms come alive as small voices fill the air and children become engaged in a variety of activities. On the blue rug, three children gather and work cooperatively putting a large floor puzzle together. At a table, a small group of children are working with plastic letters, spelling real words and creating make-believe words. Children are also busy stringing beads, investigating how magnets work and assembling puzzles at the manipulative table. The activity room is bustling with activity as it is transformed into a post office. Here the children explore with a variety of writing materials including paper, pencils, pens, envelopes and rubberstamps. In the green rug room, a tall block building is under construction. The dress up corner is host to active firefighters creating maps of their community and extinguishing pretend fires. In other areas of the school, children are actively engaged with painting, cutting, gluing, drawing, dancing, and creating.
This is just a glimpse of what goes on at the Co-op on a typical day. The children are playing and having fun, but they are also learning. It is through creative play that children learn about themselves, their peers and their world. The Co-op offers meaningful, age-appropriate experiences that encourage children to learn through play.
Perhaps it is easy to see how hopping, jumping, or dancing help build large motor coordination just as it is evident that stringing beads, cutting, drawing, or putting a puzzle together help children to develop small muscle dexterity and eye-hand coordination. However, this is just a small sample of the benefits of play.
Children playing in the post office are free to explore and discover different stages of writing. Some children are writing their names, names of family members, messages like, “I love you” or their street addresses. Other children are making straight lines and squiggles. Don’t discount these marks as just scribbling. Just as babbling is a foundation for speaking, scribbling is a foundation for writing. Writing is a natural and gradual process. Whether it is random or controlled scribbling or writing mock letters and words, this is evidence of emergent literacy in young children.
Children playing in the dress up corner, the dollhouse or make-believe scenarios can create situations that they can deal with and control. Children may work out their fears or anxieties through make-believe.
Materials at the manipulative table, legos, or large wooden blocks provide children with many learning opportunities. These activities promote social growth, sharing, exploration of sizes, shapes, distances, proportions and weight, concepts such as “smaller than” or “bigger than”, counting, one-to-one correspondence, classification, sorting and matching.
The variety of activities offered at the Co-op give children a feeling of satisfaction and joy. These positive feelings allow children to gain confidence in their skills and abilities, resulting in a strong self-concept. Playing also encourages children to think and create divergently. Play encourages many positive outcomes, so let’s encourage play. Play is the work of children!
(Written by Julie Maxwell, former Cooperative Playschool teacher)
links to articles and resources for play-based education:
Nature Deficit Disorder: just one of many, many articles on this new hot topic. Also, read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, available in the Co-op's library!
American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. "It is a child’s 'job' or 'occupation' to play to develop physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills to interact with other children, and self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments."
Waldorf Education: An Introduction. This educational movement is a big inspiration for our beloved Mrs. Kat.
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