Playing Is Learning

As you pick up your child from school each day, you naturally ask them what they did at school.  Quite often their response is that they “just played”.  That one little phrase can be quite disconcerting to parents who are looking at preschool as the beginning of their child’s academic career.  They are anxious to find out what their child learned at school today.

However, playing is how children develop social skills so critical for interpersonal connections.  They learn to listen, take turns, and share.  They may engage in pretend play in the dramatic play area, use their words to resolve conflict, or brainstorm ideas to enhance or change the way something works.

Playing is how children strengthen their fine and gross motor skills. Activities such as putting puzzles together, stringing beads, cutting paper with scissors improve fine motor skills necessary for pre-writing dexterity.  Gross motor skills are further developed through activities such as running, climbing, riding tricycles, and throwing and catching games.

Children develop cognitive skills of critical thinking during play when they engage interactively in stories being read to them, participate in songs and fingerplays, and learn to follow multi-step directions.  Successful play experiences in preschool will lay a solid foundation for all learning to come.

Children are playing to learn and learning to play. So when your child says “I just played”, rest assured that they also developed increased physical coordination, learned self-reliance skills, explored creative expression and expanded language opportunities.  Author Anita Wadley once wrote from a child’s perspective, “I’m preparing for tomorrow.  Today, I’m a child and my work is play”.

by Nancy Nathanson, Regional Education Director, Prime Time Early Learning Centers