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Play in Preschool is Invaluable for Developing Higher Level Thinking Skills

Play in Preschool is Invaluable for Developing Higher Level Thinking Skills

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October 29, 2016 | Deborah McNelis, M.Ed
Do you daydream? Studies show that the brain is not idle during daydreaming. While imagining, the brain is actually very active.

It is so incredibly important that young children have opportunities to use their imagination. This can be done through quiet reflective times or through a variety of types of play. During play children pretend, experiment and explore using their body and all of their senses, with a variety of objects, in many different ways. The development of imagination and creative thought is one of the many reasons I feel so strongly about the importance of play. Additionally, it is important to point out that learning may actually be slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduce formalized learning too early.

As numerous posts on the HiMama Childcare and Preschool Blog share, exploration opportunities are critical to optimal development. Creativity, problem solving and imagination are high level skills in the brain. It is simply essential that these opportunities are provided for all young children. It is through focused attention and repeated trial and error experiences that the brain learns and makes strong connections between neurons.

Play provides the optimal chance to develop these higher level brain skills. Activities like doing paper and pencil tasks, screen time or flash cards do not offer the possibility to develop the imagination area of the brain. Offering varied activities for play and exploring with real objects, people, and nature gives the brain the ability to pretend and to gain knowledge about how the world works. These types of experiences add to developing essential brain connections and contribute to the knowledge needed for the process of creativity and problem solving.

Additionally, creative ideas occur when the brain is in a relaxed state. A lack of stress allows children to open their mind to combine what is already known with new information. Young brains are then able to generate new thoughts and ideas.

It is extremely difficult to continuously hear stories about how frequently academics are pushed on children at younger and younger ages. Recently I was told of a mother that was relieved to find a preschool that taught spelling for her 2 ½ year old daughter. Another example is a 3 year old boy who received an “incomplete” on a worksheet because he didn't write all of the letter E’s that he was instructed to write.

The importance of play in the early years is stressed in What Children Need Most Is Adults That Understand Development. In the post, Jane Healy, an educational psychologist is quoted to state:

“Early childhood programs that implement a directed academic curriculum often replace essential, hands-on learning activities with skill-based performance and rote-learning tasks. In doing so, they risk the developmental growth necessary for children’s future academic success.”

I find it very difficult to comprehend that science provides knowledge beyond anything we have previously known to demonstrate what developing children need most, and yet there continues to be a disconnect between this understanding and practice in far too many situations.

Through sharing this type of information, it is my hope that EVERYONE will finally understand how children’s brains develop best. Because, when children are engaged in play it is almost like you can see the brain connections being made!

If interested in further information to share, I invite you to visit Brain Insights!



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