Why we teach the way we teach

Look for this page to be updated.

Why do early childhood workers constantly say, “Play is the child’s work?”  Do parents get frustrated when they ask their child, “What did you do today?” and the answer is, “Just played?”  There is SO much going on when children ‘Just Play’, and hopefully this will give you the insight as to what we mean.

Our classrooms are set up to be inviting places for children to explore.  Teachers have set out meaningful activities that the children are invited to come and try, but there are also many, many areas in the room where children can spend long stretches of time imagining, interacting socially, building and using math skills, exploring books/paper/pens, creating and most of all – being themselves!

Click here for a short video about how we practice writing skills.

Click here for some thoughts on how we practice our good manners by asking.

Kim Marxhausen presented The Power of Play at the Early Childhood conference this June.  She has done extensive research and has seen firsthand how young children who aren’t allowed long periods of play have trouble focusing later on in school!  When young children play, they are working on brain development.  Specifically she discussed how play develops Inhibitive Control (delayed gratification), Working Memory (the ability to keep track of units of information – just like remembering math facts) and Cognitive Flexibility (the ability to ‘switch gears’).

Borrowing from Kim Marxhausen’s Observation Tool:

Cognitive Flexibility – The ability to quickly assess a situation and make necessary changes.  In play this looks like: Playing a role play game and adjusting to the suggestions of others.  Later-life example: Realizing the math problem requires multiplication instead of division.  (Cool, huh?)

Inhibitive Control – The ability to inhibit an action or the intake of sensory information to enhance concentration.  In play this looks like: Taking on the role of ‘baby’ in a game requires a child to refrain from talking or walking but still find ways to direct the game.  Later-life example: Being able to block out unwanted sensory information to concentrate on the work at hand.

Working Memory – The ability to work with several pieces of information at a time.  In play this looks like: Keeping track of the roles of different players in a game.  Later-life example: Being able to access known information and use it with new information, like using letter sounds and story context to decode words.

Sustained Concentration: The ability to stick with a project, or return to it after interruption.  In play this looks like: Staying with a game and being able to continue the game after interruption.  Later-life example: Being able to finish an assignment even though other activities are going on.  Being able to resume work after leaving the assignment.

Prediction: The ability to predict behavior or events based on current information.  In play this looks like: Understanding how a decision made during a game will affect the game. Later-life example: Being able to predict what happens in a story or a science experiment.