The movement for testing has led to pushing academics onto younger and younger children at the expense of creativity and play. This is ironic, as young children learn best through play.
In the school where I taught, I was proud to be part of a team that was cutting edge in the area of authentic assessments. WE always knew exactly what our young children needed to move them to the next level, based on documentation of real reading and writing activities they engaged in on a daily basis. WE knew so much more than standardized tests could ever tell us about our young students. WE had formal reading assessments that were done periodically one-one, as well as daily assessments that were done as we taught our small groups. WE also learned a lot from looking at their writing development as well as how they engaged in play. WE had pages of notes on each child that informed our instruction….for THAT child.
When I taught we still had a half day Kindergarten program. At the beginning of the school year, many of my students needed a good month to adapt to being in school full day. WE spent time in the afternoon doing less intense activities that involved hands on play, snack and free time. AS the children adjusted, so did the length of time they were able to engage in more intense academics. BUT we were always sensitive to their needs as developing young children, with the need for play still being important.
I was always amazed at the thinking of my students and the divergent ways they had of doing things. Whenever I didn’t understand what they were doing, if I took the time to ask and listen, they could explain their thought process and it always made sense. IF you dig a bit you will see the genius of their young brains!
Don’t ever underestimate your child’s need for free play and all the learning that is inherent in that pursuit. BY free play, I do not mean a free for all while children run crazy with no parameters, but a time where children are given the opportunity to explore in a safe place with adults nearby to assist and support as needed.
Sit back and watch young children as they engage in free play. Their creativity knows no bounds. The beauty is that their brains are open and free of clutter. Young children have not been “institutionalized” and made to follow the lock-step methods of learning; the ‘one-size fits all’ mentality that kills creativity.
I love watching children play! My Grandkids (ages 3 and 4) spent over an hour creating a birthday party for their stuffed animals. I supported by supplying some materials, such as old party bags, wrapping paper and party supplies that they knew I had around the house. The creativity and stamina in creating the party scene was wonderful to see. The language as they talked and shared ideas, the fine motor skills as they tied, cut, taped , wrapped; the cooperation and executive thinking skills involved, the writing as they created cards – so much learning in their play. I wonder how long their party making would have lasted had I jumped in to tell them what to do and how to do it. Probably not very long – and look at all the learning that would have been lost!
SO don’t forget the importance of play. Join a group of kids and step into their world of play. WE are never too old, and we just might be reminded of some of our own creativity that may have been lost along the way. Getting lost in play with a child is a gift that illuminates the beauty and creativity of unspoiled innocence. It helps to remind us about what is important. Children can do that for us if we let them.