There is an overwhelming amount of research showing that children learn best through play. However, according to the reasoning of an influential, yet ignorant few, apparently “childhood” actually ends around four years old! Too often, educational stakeholders impose an adult work ethic on the classrooms of young children. Children are clearly not small adults, yet often our classroom expectations reflect that way of thinking. We would not expect a beginning pianist to play Bach’s Goldberg Variations. We would not expect a child who has just mastered the tricycle to race in the Tour de France. Why on earth would we expect young children to have the skills and stamina to learn and behave like adults?
Here is a surprise to some: childhood does not end at 4 or 5 or even 6 or 7. Early childhood is commonly defined as 3 to 8 years old, and Middle childhood as 9 to 11 years old. Another interesting newsflash: research shows that play and other self-directed activities are essential to meaningful learning throughout our entire lives. Brain neuroplasticity occurs most profoundly in infancy and early childhood (again, birth to 8-years-old,) but research shows that the formation and pruning of neural connections actually continue throughout our lives.
Perhaps, instead of falling victim to recent “push-down” academic pressures, we should, in fact, consider a robust “push-up” play policy!
“Play during the teen years and into adulthood helps the brain develop even more connectivity, especially in the frontal lobe which is the center for planning and making good decisions.” The Benefits of Play, By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.