It's Not Just Play

A Generation ago, kindergarten was supposed to get kids ready for school. However, everyone is now talking about the importance of "school readiness" before kids get to kindergarten.

That's why many parents, anxious for their children to succeed in school, want early care and education programs to have children sit at tables using work sheets, drills, and flash cards to learn letters and numbers and even starting to read, add, and subtract.

But preschoolers learn differently from school-age children: play is essential to early learning. Play is the main way children learn and develop ideas about the world. It helps them build the skills necessary for critical thinking and leadership. It's how they learn to solve problems and to feel good about their ability to learn.

Children learn the most from play when they have skilled teachers who are well-trained in understanding how play contributes to learning. Most child developmental experts agree that play is an essential part of a high-quality early learning program.