“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood,” Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers.
For many coming into an early childhood classroom, it may seem like a bunch of children playing randomly without intent. They are not looking at a whiteboard, reciting ABCs, nor writing their names over and over. There may not be a visible “lesson plan” to the casual observer. So, you might ask: “What is the purpose of early education?” We often hear that what we do is simply “childcare or babysitting” rather than who we actually are and what we do every day: high qualified state-certified teachers implementing a detailed plan designed to engage young minds.
Our classrooms are so much more than random play. Our teachers design learning areas with the intention to expose children to letters and numbers. We quietly guide children through frustrations and situations where disagreement may seem like the end of the world. They learn the social skills that will set them up for success when they get to “big kid’s school.”
This early guidance builds the foundation for a lifetime of learning and making friends. It makes school a positive place so when our children do move on, they take these happy memories and hopefully continue having fun in school, just as it should be. Learning IS fun.
We also guide our families in ways to support learning both in and out of the classroom. Limit the tablets and electronic devices and get outside. Using every opportunity to reinforce learning helps your child grow. Snack time can become a chance to learn letter recognition and letter sounds, all while enjoying a drink and a snack with their favorite person, one-on-one FUN. Try a scavenger hunt, pick three letters and go for a ride. Make it a game with prizes, stickers or a special treat. FUN.
And let children take the lead when playing. Offer help or suggestions if asked but let them figure it out and solve the problems. It gives them ownership of what they are doing and that leads to success and self-confidence.
Remember, let children play, it is, after all, their job.
Jacquelyn Bell, MAT – Lead Teacher at Children’s Friend