by Rochelle Mc Daid
As a new school year starts and a new term begins, as teachers and students file through the school gates and as the morning bell sounds to start it all off, we pause and reflect on what has become the ever more popular: September resolutions.
Resolutions of a constant smile, an open mind, a passion for learning more, an open heart and a strong, solid and dedicated goal of working hard…and playing harder!
Yes, of course, class work and structure and subjects and topics and themes and everything from the abcs to 1,2,3s are essential in our children’s learning, but what must not be forgotten, by teachers as well as parents, is the vital role that play has on our children’s lives. Play paves the way for learning!
For young children there is no distinction between play and learning; they are one of the same. Play promotes healthy growth and development in our children’s lives as well as forming a sound basis for a lifelong love of learning.
Looking from a long-term perspective, the healthy play your children have now will prepare them for the world in which they will work, play and learn as adults!
Dr. Rhonda Clements, president of the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play and professor at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York, says, “It is important to maintain a healthy sense of play throughout childhood and into adulthood. Our complex society requires clear thinkers, playful attitudes, humor and creativity for complex problem solving.”
As a preschool teacher and from working within a primary school environment you really open your eyes and observe the behavior of children throughout the school environment and look at learning through the hundreds of small and eager eyes of our students. Learning occurs while children play with blocks, paint an image, draw a picture or when they simply don a piece of material and it becomes the cloak of a dragon slayer or the beautiful veil of an enchanted princess.
During experiences of play children get some of the greatest tools of life: they learn to do new things, they learn to be creative, imaginative and inventive, they learn to problem solve and test ideas and explore the world in which they live. According to Fraser Mustard in his paper “The Early Years Study” (2002), evidence from neuroscience shows that the early years of a child’s development from birth to age six sets the basis for learning, behavior and health throughout life, an enormous impact!
Both solitary and social play is necessary for a child’s development. A child can play with a toy alone and, in the process, develop independence, self-sufficiency and persistence. Have the same child play with the same toy but this time with others and the child will acquire a different set of social skills such as sharing, empathy and teamwork.
In an educational environment here at our school we support healthy play for children by providing a safe environment for play. We use play as the means to teach growth and development. We provide play experiences and materials which allow children to try new things, to experiment, to ask questions, read, talk, sing, dance, explore and listen, and in so doing we fuel the creativity, curiosity and the desire to learn within our children’s minds.
So, everyone, let’s Play!
Happy New School Year!
Rochelle Mc Daid is a teacher at Mooltripakdee International School.