Preschools Should Foster Happier and Healthier Children
Like so many in the field of early childhood education, I worry about the erosion of play in our children's lives as technology takes up more space in their heads and fills up more hours in their days. During my final five years of teaching preschool, I witnessed a new and disturbing phenomenon that troubled me then and continues to haunt me now: 4 and 5-year-old youngsters who didn't know how to engage in dramatic play!
What kids once did so magnificently and naturally—using their imaginations and pretending to be firefighters, chefs, doctors, veterinarians, and superheroes—is now out of grasp for many of them. Without a doubt, this loss of creativity will have profound negative consequences for these youngsters and for society as a whole. Other countries esteem play-based preschools, seeing the long-range benefits of fostering independent and self-motivated learners. Sadly, we in the United States are extremely shortsighted, sending our youngsters to academic preschools so they'll be prepared for kindergarten.
The Erosion of Play
Play-based preschools promote the deepest kind of learning by encouraging kids to become self-directed learners who explore, develop curiosity, and solve their own problems.
Academically focused preschools involve the most superficial kind of learning that inhibits initiative and independence.
Decades of research in developmental psychology that show play is the most effective way for young children to learn, develop social skills, and regulate their emotions.
Playtime has decreased dramatically during the past 50-60 years with most of the decrease accelerated in the past decade. There has been a corresponding increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide among children and teens.
Researchers have linked a lack of play to increased narcissism and decreased empathy among young people. They then grow up into adults that carry those same attitudes and emotions into their day to day lives.
Surprised by these facts? You're probably a mom or dad who's bought into the "earlier is better" obsession that reigns supreme in the United States today. Anxiety is at an all-time high as parents want their children academically prepared for kindergarten. As a result, preschools have become less about playtime, creativity, and socialization and more about pre-reading skills, long circle times, and teacher-directed lessons. The impact on kids is devastating.
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