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Benefits of Play-Based Preschools

Preschools can offer play-based or didactic (traditional classroom) instruction.  While both offer benefits, and studies on which method of preschool instruction is best have offered mixed results, many early childhood educators and parents believe that play-based instruction is preferred.  Read on to learn why.

  • Children aged three to six years are best suited for learning by pretending and learning by emulating. Didactic instruction is often more difficult for children to absorb.
  • Preschool-aged children lack fine motor skills. They will more readily accomplish tasks requiring gross motor skills. Pencil and paper learning (associated with didactic instruction) requires fine motor skills (i.e., writing). This is not to say that preschoolers shouldn’t learn to write; it is merely to state that learning that allows primary use of gross motor skills and secondarily the opportunity to enhance fine motor skills development will give preschoolers a sense of early educational success and fun while also providing additional opportunities for educational challenge (i.e., fine motor skills development).
  • Preschool-aged children are active and tend not to want to spend expanses of time in sedentary roles. These children need exercise. When forced into the sedentary role of sitting at a desk for hours of didactic instruction, young children can become unruly and act out. They may become labeled as hyperactive. Additionally, young children who have been inactive throughout the majority of their day may have “energy to burn” and difficulty sleeping that evening.
  • Didactic instruction involves answers that are “right” or “wrong”. This rote learning can restrict a child’s creativity, teach a child that risk-taking (i.e., offering answers) can lead to perceived failure or rejection (i.e., being labeled “wrong”), and can diminish a child’s self-confidence and interest in education.
  • Preschool-aged children subconsciously use play for social skills and emotional development. Children who have diminished play opportunities may have impeded social skills and emotional development.
  • Children may view learning more positively when allowed to use skills and traits already possessed (i.e., gross motor skills, creativity, curiosity, and love of active play), develop additional skills (i.e., fine motor skills, writing, etc.), learn that they can give answers that are other than the anticipated answers and still not be labeled as “wrong”, and learn that academic risk-taking is not harmful. Additionally, children may view learning more positively when they are not forced to do things which run counter to their nature (i.e., sedentary experiences)
  • Children who view learning more positively are more likely to have positive self-esteem, continued interest in education, increased likelihood of academic success, and further pursuit of education beyond high school.

For the above reasons, many early childhood educators and parents believe that play-based instruction is preferred over didactic instruction at the preschool level.

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1 comment to Benefits of Play-Based Preschools

  • I’m a big advocate of play-based schools, but as long as that ‘play’ is also focused on cognitive development, and not just social. Kids are more motivated to learn when the whole act of learning doesn’t seem like a responsibility. When they’re having fun with what they’re doing, learning becomes playtime which is invaluable to their growth. I’ve emphasized this with my kids and I know they love it!

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