In recent years, the push to get children reading at an earlier age has moved a lot of kindergarten curricula and classrooms from play-based to academically-oriented curricula. Add in homeschooling, and many researchers and teachers are concerned about the long-term effects of removing play-based curricula from young learners. So just what is the lack of play impact on child development?
The problem existed even before the pandemic had stressed parents figuring out how to get their young ones to focus on a computer screen for instruction. Many believe the shift started with the Common Core initiative that put an emphasis on students meeting certain standardized testing criteria. Those criteria pushed a great deal of elementary instruction down to the pre-school and kindergarten levels.
To get all of that instruction in during the school day something had to give, and it turns out that was play. The problem? Research consistently finds that play-based learning is the most effective in early childhood education.
According to Crisis in the Kindergarten, “Young children work hard at play. They invent scenes and stories, solve problems, and negotiate their way through social roadblocks. They know what they want to do and work diligently to do it. Because their motivation comes from within, they learn the powerful lesson of pursuing their own ideas to a successful conclusion.”
An academically-oriented curriculum that’s introduced too soon may initially have a positive impact on students’ test scores, but it may not be giving them the tools they need for long-term learning.
According to Alliance for Childhood’s report, Reading Instruction in Kindergarten, “After six years of school, however, students who had been in the groups that were more academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences.”
As Parentology has reported, play allows children to learn, listen and work cooperatively with others while developing self-control. All of these skills have been attributed to kids that have the most success throughout their academic career and even well into adulthood.
Removing the opportunity for play robs many kids of the opportunity to develop socially and emotionally. The elimination of play-based curricula isn’t only taking the fun out of kindergarten, it may be leaving an entire generation of children without some of the essential skills needed for success.