I so love kindergarten! Children at this age are wide-eyed and dreamy about learning! They are social and inquisitive. They are playful and eager. They are young and unspoiled in the drudgery of school.
I remember only a few things about being in kindergarten, myself. I remember the sand table, the listening center, weaving string, making patterns, construction paper and glue, the ABC's on the wall way up above the board, NAP time, and the day our gingerbread man escaped from the pan while we were at lunch! LOL! :) Good times.
I also have a couple more prominent memories: the test and the clock. I remember feeling very scared as a kindergartener to take this important test and I remember how the page looked with all the shapes on it. I remember the little clock to. It was punched out of the back of my big silver math work book. I was to learn to tell time on it and I remember that being my first real frustration with a learning experience in school. I remember that I struggled so much, I tearfully threw it into the toy box at home- after wadding it up first, mind you!
But, let's be realistic. It's important for children to begin learning math and reading concepts at some point. But what is that point? This lead me to wonder about education legislation. We know that research goes round and round and educational policy follows the same pattern. We implement, we change it, we implement it back to how it once was...
So what did kindergarten used to be like? Let's go back to the 1800's!
A Welsh gentleman, Owen, was concerned about families who worked long hours in cotton mills during the Industrial Revolution. So he began a school for young ones which included a day of "sensory learning, singing, dancing, stories, nature, and physical exercise."
These ideals didn't go far in England or the US in their entirety, but we still do have large blocks of play time for children in preschools.
One extreme, I came across this semester is a day of outdoor play kindergarten. This kindergarten is in Denmark and it's called Forest Kindergarten. They learn by playing! This is an amazing video.
How important is play and what is "play-based" learning?
'“Play facilitates the growth of children’s reasoning abilities,” says David Elkind, Ph.D., author of The Power of Play. Through classifying objects (cars, shells, beads) and through experimentation (water play, clay), children learn to make inferences and draw conclusions. “Children’s questions are a form of mastery play,” says Elkind. “In asking questions, children are creating their own learning experiences.”
As the scholastic article below states, that American's are always in a rush mindset to improve our children and our educational standings, we've found that moving first grade to kindergarten hasn't helped in the least. In other countries, such as Finland, children do not begin formal learning until 7! How are their scores? Well, they continually lead the world in literacy, math and science! Did I also mention these children only go for half a day?
Middendorf, a veteran teacher states: “Play has been phased out of so many kindergarten classes, But since we’re not getting the academic results we expected, educators are now realizing that they can teach academic standards within the context of play.”
OF Course, What does Research say?
"(value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children) Both (studies) compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development."
What is Play-Based Learning?
Giving students materials and opportunity to play in an early childhood setting while teachers briefly might come alongside a child during play and ask questions about what they are doing, is in a nutshell, play based learning. This is a great informational video here.
This topic is very interesting to me and I'm beginning to explore it more. It makes sense to allow children play time. Try it yourself. Give a child play time. Watch him. Ask him questions. See what he's learning.