Here at Cherry Hills Christian School, we want to honor children in every stage of their development. We know they develop at different rates in different areas of academics and life, and we want to partner with parents to meet children where they are and help take them to the next level. Fully know, fully loved, fully His.
There is intense pressure in our culture for children to grow up faster and faster. They seem to be expected to do more at younger ages. As educators, we often call this “push down” as Grade 1 standards are pushed down to Kindergarten, and Kindergarten standards are pushed down to Preschool. This problematic approach to education is unfortunately on the rise — and one we actively seek to combat starting in The Preschool. Even a decade ago, in August 2010, Psychology Today reported, “Free play, once a hallmark of childhood, is now becoming scarce, despite recent findings that it is critical for maintaining mental health, developing intelligence and a fully social brain.”
Pushing kids too fast too soon has an impact on their school experiences — and it is often negative.
“Expecting more from a child than he or she is developmentally ready to handle can create anger and despair on the part of the child, and impatience and frustration for the teacher or parent,” writes Barbara bell, author of the Developmental Readiness Scale.
How to promote playful learning
All of this and more is why CHC pushes back at pushing down and champions developmentally appropriate practice and the use of play as a key teaching strategy. Here are three ways to promote playful learning, according to Harvard Education:
- Choice Kids are setting goals, developing and sharing ideas, making rules, negotiating challenges, and choosing how long to play.
- Wonder Kids are exploring, creating, pretending, imagining, and learning from trial and error.
- Delight Happiness! Kids are smiling, laughing, being silly, or generally feeling cozy and at ease.
Benefits of playful learning
“Play provides opportunities for self-discovery and social connections, and it allows kids to try out ideas and use what they are learning in their academic subjects in a less pressured environment,” wrote Madeleine Rogin for Edutopia.org. “Play develops imagination and speaking and listening skills and solidifies math and science concepts. Play is a time when mistakes can be deeply explored because children are intrinsically motivated to repair a friendship or rebuild a structure. In play, the goals are set by the students, and they are often exactly what the students are developmentally ready to do, like learning how to work in a group or emotionally regulate. This isn’t always true for the academic portions of our day.”
CHC, the place for playful learning
At CHC, we take great care to set up an intentional learning environment with lots of hands-on materials and ample opportunities to play, experiment, problem-solve, collaborate and be creative. Teachers guide play by asking high-level questions, such as, “Why do you think …” and “How did you figure out how to…”, and “What else could we…” For young children, play is the primary vehicle for learning and future academic success.
We appreciate this sentiment from Magda Gerber, the late Early Childhood educator known for teaching parents and caregivers how to understand babies and interact with them respectfully from birth: “Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write, and count,” she said. “It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better. “