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The Power of Play-Based Learning

At CCNS the kids don’t sit still at desks and complete identical assignments. Instead, our teachers promote a free-flowing classroom that encourages self-discovery, social interaction, and cooperative play. And since the world beyond preschool is also a very social place, the learning philosophy fostered at CCNS is preparing your kids for the interactions they’ll need to do well in school and in life.

In an academic world increasingly dominated by standardized tests and one-size fits all grading systems, the simple act of play doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. But scour the Internet for information on play-based learning, and you’ll discover hundreds of research articles that promote this approach for educating social and creative children.

In a May 2015 article in the New York Times, “Let the Kids Learn Through Play,” the author takes a look at the evidence of long-term benefits between academically-oriented preschools and those that focus on play.

The author, freelance science writer David Kohn, finds that the initial benefits for kids in academically-focused preschools (or the equivalent of “early learning”) are short-lived and could even promote apathy toward education, stress, or even slow down social and cognitive learning. On the other hand, play-based learning has been shown by numerous studies to not only promote cooperative interactions and improved social skills but reflects the way kids learn; through creating and imagining all at their own pace.

The act of playing, just like a cocktail party or a high school dance, is a lot more complicated than it might appear. With play based learning, no one is telling each child what to do. They get to decide which goals to accomplish, who to be with, and where to go next. A preschool environment that embraces play based learning is strengthening a child’s intellectual and emotional development. A preschool like CCNS gives children the opportunity to navigate and explore their own situations, which fosters both independence and socialization. The confidence gained through mastering play may provide a child with the willingness to try more complex activities and shine in social situations.

For a preschooler, play is very much like work. And just like any job, kids need a lot of practice to become better at playing. So, while our children’s world is often defined by marbles, plastic dinosaurs, and dollhouses, we should continue to let them play and acknowledge that they are learning more than what is plainly obvious at the same time.

If you are looking for ways to participate in promoting more academic learning make sure to read out loud to your kids, often. One of the most important ways we, as parents, can have a profound impact on how our kids learn is by reading to them. Studies show that even infants benefit from hearing stories read to them. In another recent New York Times article, “Bedtime Stories for Young Brains,” the author found that reading to kids stimulates the brain areas that promote the integration of sound and visual information and can lead to increased reading and language comprehension, improved vocabulary, as well as fostering imagination and creativity.

“[Reading] will help them later be better readers because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.” (Dr. John S. Hutton, Bedtime Storied for Young Brains, 2015)

So, reading to our kids not only helps improve visual recognition, language comprehension and increased vocabulary, it also gives us the perfect opportunity to be close to our kids. And who doesn’t want that?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to any early childhood education philosophy, but at CCNS you can be sure that your kids are working hard at becoming kind, social, creative individuals.