Children are expected to achieve higher levels of academic success today, at younger ages than ever before. Even the most progressive preschool programs and child care services are feeling the pressure to devote the majority of the school day to academic lessons.
Parents feel a similar pressure and do everything that they can to engage their kids academically at home, such as practicing colors and patterns, and reviewing letters and numbers. These pursuits leave limited time for free play both at home and at the school.
Many parents and teachers alike are surprised to discover the consequences that stem from kids being in a structured environment for the majority of the day. While four and five years olds may have the academic skills to test above average, they are lacking key life skills, such as sharing, sitting still and taking turns. It is not uncommon for them to have difficulty in controlling their emotions and to develop anxiety and sensory issues as well.
Despite extensive research that confirms that young children learn best through meaningful play, more and more preschools and other child care services are transitioning from largely play based days to heavily structured academic days.
Teachers are also under more pressure than before to document what they do and why they do it, which further compromises the minimal amount of play time that their students have during the school day.
When children don’t have adequate natural movement and play experiences, they don’t cultivate the skills that they need for their academic careers. They are more likely to have trouble with social interactions, problem solving, emotional control, and paying attention. Instead of trying to fix these issues after they arise, kids simply need the opportunity to develop critical life skills through free play during their preschool years.
Dorothy Hastings is the Director of First School, which are three preschool and child care centers located throughout Southern California. First School provides a hands-on approach to preschool education and Child Care programs that emphasizes all around child development. In addition to their intuitive academic approach, First School also focuses on developing a child’s social skills and self-confidence, which is made possible in their intimate learning atmosphere.