Play-Based Learning

If you were to walk into one of our centers (Discovery Days I, II, and III and Kids Connection I and II) you might see that the children spend 80% of their waking hours engaging in play.  On a surface level, this might cause the casual observer to be skeptical or to think that the curriculum isn’t very rigorous; however, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our educational philosophy is very simple: children learn best through explorative play in which they are engaging with their environment and other children, with the help of a facilitating teacher.  You may be thinking, what constitutes “play?” “Play” is only “play” according to a group of early childhood experts, if it meets three of the following expectations listed below, each of which is taken directly fromscholarly work (Krasnor&Pepler, 1980; Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983, depicted in the “Power of Play” publication):

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE. Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED. When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL. It involves make-believe

What does the research say?

  • “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (i.e., the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.” –American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report, 2018
  • “Stressing formal learning can turn off preschoolers, many of whom aren’t physically ready to hold a pencil or sit still and complete worksheets.” Lorayne Carbon, director of the Early Childhood Center at Sarah Lawrence College
  • “The University of North Florida, studied 343 children who had attended a preschool class that was “academically oriented,” one that encouraged “child initiated” learning, or one in between. She looked at the students’ performance several years later, in third and fourth grade, and found that by the end of the fourth grade those who had received more didactic instruction earned significantly lower grades than those who had been allowed more opportunities to learn through play.”-New York Times
  • “We’re recommending that health care providers write a prescription for play because it’s so important.”- Dr. Michael Yogman, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics report

Why a play-based philosophy of learning?

  • Play is the most natural form of learning for children, especially children under the age of 5. Play occurs spontaneously, and helps develop a child emotionally, socially, cognitively, and physically.
  • Play encourages children to explore, test their limits, and solve problems.
  • Playing teaches vital life skills such as sharing, verbal and non-verbal communication, and empathy.
  • Play helps develop a child’s small and large motor skills.
  • The limits to play are endless, resulting in children exploring new frontiers each day.
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