Today I am featuring three articles that all highlight the importance of unstructured play for young kids. In the first, an anonymous teacher touts the benefits of play for kids. In the second, teacher Bethany Hill proposes that "homework" for elementary school kids should consist mainly of reading, playing family games, and spending time in unstructured play. Now that's an assignment that my family can get behind! In the third post, Scott Wiley shares his thoughts on a portion of David Elkind's book The Power of Play, specifically focusing on when kids are actually developmentally ready to learn concepts that are rule-based. As Scott notes, this references back to Rae Pica's book, which I reviewed yesterday.
Anonymous NY teacher posting as Miss Rumphius (quoted at ECE Policy Works): "Kids need play. It is how they learn. It is how they process new ideas and become themselves. This is something study after study has shown—that children learn best through play, through social interaction, through exploration, through movement. Yet, we continue to insist that real learning happens silently at desks in front of “rigorous” worksheets."
Me: I'm going to start following this teacher's blog. I like the way she thinks. These days, every time I see my own child playing, whether with her friends or by herself, I notice the ways in which she is learning.
Bethany Hill: "A few minutes of practice is perfectly fine, but families shouldn’t have the added stress of hours of work into the evening, missing out on great conversations, family time, extra curricular activities, and PLAY. My hope for all of our kids is to have moments of joy, relaxation, unstructured play, investment in them by adults, and participation in extracurricular activities in the community....
Unstructured play is one of the greatest opportunities for learning we can provide for our kids. They need time to imagine, create, and discover. Unstructured play allows kids to learn who they are. They face conflict and can learn to solve problems. They also learn how to use their imagination to enhance their fun."
Me: I love Bethany's suggestions for what kids should be doing instead of spending time on homework: reading (both read-alouds and quiet time when the whole family reads silently together), playing non-digital games with family, and engaging in unstructured play. I've always believed that having kids spend time reading at home is critically important, and I've certainly noticed in my own household that my daughter learns many things from playing games and from less structured, imaginative play.
Scott Wiley (recapping Chapter 6 of David Elkind's book The Power of Play): "Elkind says that formal instruction is the teaching of "rules" so no formal instruction should happen until children have developed reasoning skills. Literacy, math, and science all have "rules" and kids cannot effectively learn these things until they reach the age of reason. The best way for children to move into the age of reason is to play...
Bottom line - young children are not ready for formal instruction. Trying to introduce formal instruction to children before they are developmentally ready is fruitless and could even "run the risk of killing the child's motivation for learning, for schooling, and for respecting teachers.""
Me: I really should go ahead and read The Power of Play. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying reading Scott Wiley's thoughts as he moves through the book. I have noticed in my own daughter (who just turned six) an increasing ability to reason (e.g. applying logic in an argument to get her way), but I certainly find sometimes that she is not rational in her reactions. This is especially true when she is tired (which I think argues against full-day kindergarten, which our elementary school is going to launch next year).