Decades of solid research confirms that children learn best through play experiences. However, play in early elementary classrooms is rapidly diminishing and on the brink of extinction. Ask any teacher, what the biggest obstacle to play is, and you are very likely to hear- “We just don’t have time for play; we have to focus on academics.”
When lowly teachers approach the educational royalty for assistance, the response often ignores the classroom realities. In a regal, condescending tone, teachers are often told: Well, you should incorporate developmentally appropriate best practices while meeting all academic expectations.”
Um, you aren’t listening. The reality is that our students are starving for play, and we are watching them, helpless to change the realities of what school has become for our youngest learners. Don’t you think we want happier, healthier children thriving in more balanced, joyful classrooms? Teachers are daily witnesses to the stress, anxiety, and burnout of the young children in our schools. At what point do we stop blaming the teachers, who in reality are simply doing what they’re told to do, to the best of their abilities.
The real question facing those who want to follow research-based best practice is not should child-directed play be part of early elementary classrooms, but how to effectively incorporate this essential childhood experience, while meeting the ever-increasing academic demands. Daily Play Based Centers is a first step to bringing back balanced and joyful learning communities.
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. -Mr. Fred Rogers