Visiting a school to enroll your child, or just popping in to see your child’s class and what you see is not what you expected. Instead of quietly sitting at tables practicing letters, numbers and academics you see the children bouncing balls, preparing dinner in a kitchen area, building roads in blocks, building with legos and cutting paper up with scissors. They are loud and everything seems a bit chaotic. Not at all what you want to see right? But don’t worry there is more going on than what meets the eye.
The children in the music area bouncing balls. They are learning hand -eye coordination, rhythms and working on large motor development. In the kitchen making dinner they are about nutrition, sorting and classifying food, table manners and reading skills with recipe books. Building roads for the cars in the block area they are using beginning engineering skills to solve how to get their car from point a to point b. They are building on basic math skills making shapes and measuring distances. Let’s not forget the science of friction and gravity while building different sized ramps. Now what’s up with those legos? Legos are great tools to help develop fine motor skills. Strengthening those finger muscles to prepare for holding pencils. Once again it’s engineering, getting those little bricks to form robots, stairs and buildings. Cutting paper allows for more fine motor development and also hand-eye coordination while trying to cut those lines. All these skills are needed to build their readiness for school. While all this is important it’s not all they are learning.
The most important thing to me that they learn while in play is the social skills. Watching the children in my classroom play I see them learning how to deal with the world. Conversation skills are running amok. Using vocabulary to express what they need, listening to their friends, expressing their feelings in a positive way. Then I see problem solving skills. What do you do when the block you want is being used by someone else? Taking turns and sharing happens in the moment. It’s not something you can plan. They work out feelings of frustration and anger when friends knock over their towers. They build persistence when something doesn’t work the first time and they have to try again. They learn independence when they want to play dress up and need to put that cape on by themselves.
Supervision and guidance is always necessary during play. There will always be times when the teacher will be needed as a mediator but it is during this time that they learn the best on their own. Play is a powerful learning tool. Play should never be underestimated, it’s magic!
Lead Jr. Kindergarten Teacher