I recently recommended the book Free To Learn, by Peter Gray. The New York Times recently published an article, The Building Blocks of a Good Pre-K, that further highlights the fallacy that learning and play are mutually exclusive experiences.
“While grown-ups recognize that pretending helps children find their way into the world, many adults think of play as separate from formal learning. The reality is quite different. As they play, children develop vital cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional skills. They make discoveries, build knowledge, experiment with literacy and math and learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways. Play is also fun and interesting, which makes school a place where children look forward to spending their time. It is so deeply formative for children that it must be at the core of our early childhood curriculum.
What does purposeful play look like? When you step into an exemplary pre-K classroom, you see a room organized by a caring, responsive teacher who understands child development. Activity centers are stocked with materials that invite exploration, fire the imagination, require initiative and prompt collaboration. The room hums.”
– Shael Polakow-Suranksy & Nancy Nager
Better learning doesn’t just happen as a result of environments where children are free to play. Better learning happens WHILE they play.