Fresh Information

July 26, 2010

Play As Curriculum

Play As Curriculum

Diligent good base

By Kay Star

A main ingredient of any infant or toddler program should be play. Early childhood educators have long recognized play as vital to growth and learning. It is natural to young children and should be regarded as an important use of their time, not as something secondary of optional.

The benefits of play are enormous and go far beyond the kinds of things we talk about so easily, like developing skills and learning concepts. Play can be an avenue to early literacy skills, for one thing. According to one study, play is where many paths to literacy come together and emerging understanding are integrated, practiced, and tested in a safe environment. Play offers children opportunities that come from nowhere else. Through play, children get involved in open-ended exploration. They are not confined by rules, procedures, or outcomes. Children at play have self-direction. They have power. Through total absorption during play, they make discoveries they might otherwise never make, they work on problems, they make choices, and they find out what interests them.

Letting free play remain free is difficult for some adults once they recognize how important play is for infants and toddler. They want to set up objectives and plan for, indeed, control, outcomes. This is especially true for programs for children from low-income families because of the urgency to prepare them for elementary.

One reason adults sometimes want to control toddler play is that they do not understand it. Preschool play they understand because it looks involved and productive, and it fits into categories such as dramatic play or art or block play. But toddler play may not look like much. Toddlers may not look involved. They dabble at things, wander around, often carrying objects with them. But if you watch carefully, you see they are not uninvolved, nor are they in transition. They are walking and carrying. They are making choices. In addition, perhaps they are enjoying the sensory changes as they move around.

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