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A dear friend of my daughter called me super excited because she was going to finally leave her job teaching elementary age children and stay home with her two and four year-old.
She wanted to put her four year old in my part time preschool and I immediately said yes. It was only after I said yes that she begin to tell me how her daughter’s behavior was “horrible” at home and in childcare.
At home and school, her daughter threw screaming fits all the time, refused to cooperate, and at the end of each school day – her teachers described her daughter as having had another “very bad day.”
I began to worry that maybe I made a mistake in saying I would take her daughter. I envisioned a year of tantrums and blocks flinging across the room. But it was too late now.
To make this story short, I want to cut to what I figured out about the third month of school.
This little girl hated anything that even closely resembled “school work.” When I would press her to give something a try, she would roll her eyes and easily do any project I set out. She knew all her numbers, letters, shapes, colors and could write her name in any direction. In her other learning experiences, she’d been drilled with all the art projects, activity pages, drill the skill activities, and other agendas that preschool teachers typically add to their day and she was sick of it.
I realized what she needed most was more time for play. So I took all pressure off and with an exception here and there, we spent the rest of the school year deeply engaged in play and exploration.
If I wanted her to learn anything new, we did it through play. Along the way, we also built an amazing relationship.
Guess how many tantrums, toys, or blocks this little girl threw. ZERO.
At the end of the school year mom came to me and said, “Mrs. Stewart, you literally transformed not only our daughter but our entire family.”
Mom went on to say, “I’ve been teaching for years and never realized how important play was. I think about how I used to teach and I could never go back and teach the same way again.”
All we truly did that was different was spend the entire year investing in play-based learning.
If you ever feel worried or doubt that play isn’t enough, I understand that. I’ve even worried about the same thing.
But I want to assure you that play is exactly what young children need to be ready for Kindergarten. Giving young children time in intentional, well designed, true blue play is powerful.
Play transforms classrooms, families, and the lives of the children we serve. Play is enough.