Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

What’s the Deal With Preschool Anyway?

play-and-learn-preschoolThe word pretty much speaks for itself. The school before the “big school.” As a kid, I loved going to preschool. We got to play and make art projects. But there is more to preschool than just having fond memories of fun times. Those play experiences build the foundation for future learning!

As an adult I when I was reintroduced to preschool, I was hooked from the get-go. Play is a huge focus in preschool. Play is actually how kids learn. For instance, how many of you, as a child, played “house?” Growing up that was all I ever wanted to play. I was always the mom, I loved to be in charge! Playing house and having dramatic play areas in preschool classrooms are a way to get kids ready for kindergarten. Think about this. Kids “pretending” to act like they are in a “real life situation.” They model what they see from their own lives and what they see their parents/caregivers do all while using their elaborate imagination.

One of my many responsibilities at 4C for Children is to facilitate Play & Learn groups. We play, learn about cleaning up, read a story together that falls in line with the lesson of that day, we have our snack and parents leave with their kids once the session is complete. In addition to the children playing and learning the parents are asked to fill out an evaluation at the end of the session. We use these evaluations for data and feedback on our sessions. 4C also offers parents the opportunity to fill out ASQ’s (Ages and Stages questionnaire) on their child. In a recent Play & Learn I had a child that just turned 2. His mother filled out the ASQ saying that her son could not string beads. In that very session I sat with him and watched him string beads onto a pipe cleaner. When I told this mother, her face just lit up. It was so exciting for her to learn that her son has been growing and learning different skills.

Kids are like sponges; they literally soak up all the knowledge. It is amazing to see how their minds just brighten when they learn something new. Writing their name, understanding the importance of what it means to be a friend, and more! For parents that are on the fence about preschool I would encourage you to look at the advantages of quality early childhood education. Unfortunately, preschool is not an option for all families. Search out the resources in your community; learn about some different early childhood experiences in your neighborhood. Talk to other parents, teachers and community members who are advocates for early childhood education and learn what you can do to set your child up for success in school.

Here are some local resources:


When Did Play Become About Toys?

“I’m bored!”

“There’s nothing to do!”

I hear this all of the time from my kids, and yet when I suggest that they go outside and play, they never seem to want to. When I think back to my own childhood, playing outside is basically all I remember. We were outside all day until dark or until our parents got home from work, and with no cell phones! I know times were easier, neighbors watched out for each other, and it didn’t seem so scary to let your kids go outside. Although we may think there is a child abductor standing on every corner to grab our children, the number one cause of death for children seems to be automobile accidents, and the facts on child abduction may surprise you.

I recently read an article by Alix Spiegel, “Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills,” where he speaks of cultural historian, Chudacoff , who said the word “play” conjures up the idea of “ toys” nowadays, whereas the word used to symbolize “activity.” I was interested, because for me, when I was told to go play I always thought that  meant “go do something.” My kids are content with a DS or an Xbox and call it playing.

When I was a kid, the neighborhood kids would flock to one particular yard to play kick ball or baseball. We would get on our banana-seat bicycles and ride all day long, making our own bike trails, creating obstacle courses. We traipsed through the neighborhood, flying down the hills with no hands, and might have even have had a friend on the handlebars. Sometimes we fell and got scraped up. No biggie. We worked it out. If we wanted a drink we got it from the garden hose, and once in awhile a neighbor would treat us to popsicles.

If we were playing inside, we were using our imagination. My sister and I loved to throw couch cushions on the floor, stepping only on them to avoid the “alligators” in the water (carpet) or quicksand. Barbies allowed us to hold fashion shows, remodel cardboard houses, plan a wedding, or prepare gourmet cinnamon rolls from Brach’s candy toffee! If we were listening to music, we became the singer and actually performed with the hairbrush microphone in hand. And wow, what a great fishing pole you could make from a stick, string, and a paperclip.

Playing and make-believe enabled us to come up with our own rules, create our own boundaries, and according to the experts in the Spiegel article, our private “self speech” led to self-discipline and self-regulation. What happens to kids when they don’t play?  Could that be why we have so many impulsive kids these days?

Play builds not only physical health but mental health, as well. Activity keeps our bodies strong and imagination keeps our brains going. When given the freedom to explore and figure things out for ourselves we are learning how to control ourselves and our responses. Self-regulation helps us develop healthy emotions, language, and social skills. Maybe these studies help confirm the old adage about the child that’s been given a new toy, but shows more interest in playing with the box?

Photo courtesy of docentjoyce.