This week, I’ve read a few articles on the importance of play, of play as being the work of childhood, and on the misguided common core standards. In Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose, Common Core standards that expect children in Kindergarten to be naming letters and writing words and sentences is compared to research-proven timetables for children’s development. The results show that the strong emphasis on teaching children to read before first grade can be detrimental rather than helpful to their developing reading skills (https://deyproject.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/readinginkindergarten_online-1.pdf).
In another article, “Linking self-regulation, pretend play and learning in young children,” Marcy Guddemi, PhD cites studies showing that children who attended play-based preschools with more time given for exploring the world and playing with peers ended up doing better academically in school. These studies also linked the development of self-regulation and executive function skills in the early years of life as being stronger factors contributing to success in school that the ability to read at an early age. (http://seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/3237/important-new-findings.aspx)
One last report, “Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children” by Lillian G. Katz, PhD at the University of Illinois states that ” intellectual dispositions may be weakened or even damaged by excessive and premature formal instruction,… they are also not likely to be strengthened by many of the mindless, trivial if not banal activities frequently offered in child care, preschool and kindergarten programs. ” She continues: “the common sense notion that “earlier is better” is not supported by longitudinal studies of the effects of different kinds of preschool curriculum models…..when young children engage in projects in which they conduct investigations of significant objects and events around them, for which they have developed the research questions and by which they themselves find out how things work, what things are made of, what people around them do to contribute to their well-being, and so forth… their lively minds are fully engaged.” She concludes that ” depending on the extent and intensity of it, introduction of formal academic instruction in the preschool years may not be in the best interests of many of our children, and in fact, may be damaging to some of them in the long term….[E]arly childhood curriculum and teaching methods are likely to be best when they address children’s lively minds so that they are quite frequently fully intellectually engaged.” (https://deyproject.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/dey-lively-minds-4-8-15.pdf)
It is amazing that while evidence in support of the development of the WHOLE CHILD, with social, emotional and cognitive development going hand-in-hand, that many preschools and kindergartens throughout the US are spending less time on play and more energy on doing assessments based on a list of skills that may not even be developmentally appropriate.