The Importance of Play in Early Childhood
We all want what is best for our children, however somewhere along the line we have let our fear and anxieties take over. We fear that our children will ‘fall behind’, we push our children’s development from one milestone to the next, and we worry ourselves silly when we compare our children with others.
“I have spent my adult life trying to figure out why parents and society put themselves into a race - what’s the hurry?
– Magda Gerber
We are ignoring what the research has told us and continues to tell us, about developmentally appropriate early learning. What the resounding evidence tells us is that play is the foundation for academic learning.
At New Shoots we are passionate about advocating for what is the best for your children. In the early years, what is best for your children is PLAY.
Child led play is essential to healthy brain development and sets children up to be inquisitive, life-long learners.
Here is an excerpt from Vince Gowman’s website regarding why play is the foundation for academic learning :
Our child’s right brain develops first, when children are around 3-4 years of age. The right brain is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity. It is where they wonder, dream, connect and come alive.
The left brain, on the other hand, doesn’t fully come online until children are approximately seven years old. The left brain’s functionality is one of language, numeracy, literacy, analytical thinking, calculation, analysis and time.
“We need to be extra careful with the amount and timing of academic agendas created for children… pushing literacy and numeracy on children before age seven may just be harmful to their little, developing brains. Without the capacity to use their academic minds in the ways that are being asked can cause children to gain what’s called “learned stupidity.” They believe themselves to be incapable and lose their natural desire to learn”.
Play and learning occur simultaneously – they are not separate entities. It is not play versus learning, but play and learning. In considering what we what for our children it must surely include being well-adjusted, being resilient, and being "successful".
But let’s look at what ‘success’ is in the early years. It isn't about filling up your child with facts and knowledge, (there is plenty of time for that at school). It's not about learning to sit still and quiet on the mat, or filling out work sheets, colouring in pages, or queuing up for this or that. If we are really committed to our children’s best interests, we will acknowledge that their success is not dependent upon any of that stuff, but rather the messy, unpredictable, emotional work they do day in and day out as they play alongside other members of their community.
The dispositions (habits of mind) that will serve young children as they move into the world as an adult are encouraged here. Through our programme we encourage: risk taking, divergent thinking, communicating with clarity, taking risks, solving problems, compassion, grit, inclusion, creative thinking, questioning and collaboration to name a few.
Through play, children develop the skills to negotiate their world in so many ways. In early childhood this is so much more important than anything else they can learn.
We truly believe that the most important outcomes for early childhood are for children to develop a positive imagery of themselves as a learner, and to develop a deep LOVE of learning.
“During the first years of a child’s life it is play, not scheduled instruction that contributes the most to brain development (Frost, 1998)”
If you're looking for a high quality, play based Early Childhood Centre, there are New Shoots Children's Centres around Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. We would love to meet you and your child!
Our website is a great place to start to get to know us. You can:
- Find the centre nearest you
- Contact us to organise a visit
- Check out our 'A Day in the Life' scale, where you can see what your child might get up to during the day with us.
We love what we do, and we look forward to welcoming you into our community!