When we discuss the importance of play as a young child’s primary vehicle for learning, it is important to be knowledgeable of the huge body of research that has been done in major universities around the world about early brain development, how young children learn, and how we can improve the way we support the learning process. It is also useful to discuss that there are continual advances in most aspects of all academic and technological fields, and periodically updating our educator’s knowledge, skills and procedures in early childhood education should be an expectation. In the field of early learning there are many teachers who are still teaching the way we did in 1985 (and many, many parents demanding it!) This begs the question “What’s wrong with this picture?” Part of the problem is that many of the teachers and caregivers currently working in our field, and most of the parents of the children we are caring for, went to preschool themselves in the 1980’s and 1990’s (or for older teachers, that’s when they learned to teach) and they are simply knee-jerking to what they remember from their own childhoods. Regardless, it can also be helpful to be able to describe in detail exactly what a young child learns when they engage in difference kinds of play.
For example: “When children play with blocks, they develop meaningful skills in all areas of their development. Creating block structures develops an understanding of balance, symmetry, leverage, and ratios. Children learn about length, height, weight, area, size and function. They learn to predict cause-and-effect. They develop their creativity and sense of design. They utilize emergent reading and writing skills when they make props and signs for their block structures. They develop large and small muscle strength and skills, and strengthen their hand-eye coordination and depth perception. These are all precursors to reading, writing, math and science. Block play also offers a wealth of opportunities to refine social skills as children work together to create houses, zoos, towers, roads, castles, and so much more.”
Finally, it is useful to define the difference between a “traditional” learning model that focuses primarily on memorizing, reciting, and following directions without necessarily understanding what has been learned, and “developmentally appropriate, meaningful, foundational” learning which involves an understanding of and ability to apply what has been learned, and prepares the child for the next level of learning.
Prime Time Early Learning Centers in Paramus, Edgewater, East Rutherford and Hoboken NJ values the educational value of “structured play” and encourages their directors and teachers to attend periodic instruction in Early Childhood Education, so Prime Time can continue to evolve and embrace the most recent and valuable research in how to prepare young children for a lifetime of success. Prime Time Early Learning offers traditional part-time and full-time child care, after school care, drop-in care, and summer camp for young children.