Children need more unstructured play time in school.

The NY TIMES features a second article this month on the importance of children’s play, “At One School, A Push for More Playtime”.   (Click Here for Article)

“Some kindergarten parents at Public School 101, a graceful brick castle in Forest Hills Queens, wanted more free play time for their children; so they decided to do something about it.…Play came in the form of “choice time,” a roughly 30-minute afternoon period during which each child chose what blocks or toys in the classroom to work with, and at recess, which was often truncated by the time it took for every child to calm down and form an orderly line back to class.” Clara Hemphill, who researches the city’s schools notes in the article, “Time and space for imaginative play in city schools seem to be shrinking as the academic emphasis on reading and math grows.”

I find it encouraging that a growing number of parents are concerned about the need for more unstructured play during the school day.  However, the discussion about the role of play in schools is so often presented as a dichotomy – “academic” vs. “play time.” There still remains a general  misunderstanding about how young children learn. Play is the basic learning mode for young children –  language and early literacy, mathematical and physical knowledge, and critical and creative thinking develop when children are given time to explore and play with open-ended materials, enriching and sharing their “theories” with their peers and teachers.