Children of all ages benefit from play, especially those five years of age and under. Yet societal pressures driven toward academic achievement have stripped away many of the meaningful play experiences for preschoolers. And we aren’t the only ones taking notice. In recent months, early childhood education has been making headlines around the country. From New York City’s move to universal pre-k to parents protesting the removal of recess, what is and isn’t happening during the school day is a major concern among parents and educators.
In 2015, much of the curriculum driving early childhood programs is intentional in nature and directed by adults, marginalizing play as a nice to have luxury. However, play offers an educational way of exploring the world and preschoolers benefit. Research proves this time and time again. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play has a crucial role in the optimal growth, learning, and development of children from infancy through adolescence.
While the number of studies validating play as an essential part of early childhood development is up, the average amount of time actually spent playing outside is dramatically down. Just 30 years ago, 40 percent of a typical day in preschool was devoted to child-initiated play, compared with 25 percent today. Another study by the Seattle Children’s Research found that nearly half of preschoolers in a sample representing four million U.S. children did not have even one adult-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day. The depletion of play in young children has reached epidemic proportions.
It’s worth stating again that play is not a luxury, it’s a necessity for preschoolers. Research proves it. Many leading educators support it. We need to stand up for play for those just learning to stand on their own. Through play, physical, social and sensory skills are fostered. It’s how preschoolers experience the world.
It’s time to make play a fundamental building block to early childhood education. How are you working to save play for young children?