Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Why do we miss the essentialness of play?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Today, I feel a little bit like I am on a rant...talking about the same old, same old. Many years ago, when serving on a ‘Minister Search Committee’ for my church, I heard it said that every preacher has basically five good sermons – essential messages to which they keep coming back. I wonder the same thing about this early childhood blog – what are the top five things I keep saying over and over, even if packaging it or introducing it in different ways? What’s at my core? I have to believe that I write about more than five things, but I keep coming back to certain beliefs:

  1. Let children play - let them choose their own fun, make their own learning.
  2. Be present while they play - notice, converse, extend.
  3. Make the preschool classroom a laboratory, filled with tinkering, exploring, creating, wondering, discovering.
  4. Help novice teachers see the richness and importance of all of the above.
  5. Advocate for all of the above.
Yes, here I am today with more of the same. I worry so about our young children. What is happening to their childhood? I worry about how much we are preoccupied when we are around them, I worry about the strict routines to which we hold them, I worry about the academics we are spoon-feeding them rather than letting them choose their own adventures. I think about how much the world has changed for the average three year old over the past quarter century - getting dressed and out the door first thing each morning, being confined with many peers of the exact same age for eight to ten hours a day, following teacher's instructions, coming home and eating and going to bed, to repeat the same thing the next day. 

I worry about how my perspective is perceived by many as 'cute', 'quaint', 'old-fashioned.'

Just this past week, we had family conferences and I found myself 'preaching'...one dear family with an academically-able child asked if she should skip pre-k 4 and advance directly to kindergarten next year. I teach three year olds. No, no, no, no, no! Please, why? Why are we rushing childhood? Why do we think we should push children? The learning that happens when they play with their peers is priceless: problem-solving, persevering, becoming socially competent.

Thankfully, my perspective isn't seen as 'out of touch' by all - one family shared how their child loves coming to preschool each day. This Mom suggested that the classroom was like a laboratory, and added "I feel that my child needs to do, needs to make, needs to feel satisfied." She thanked me for providing a classroom that allowed her child daily adventure, a place where she can make something new happen each day. These are words I live by!


  1. Play is not cute, quaint, or old-fashioned. Anyone who thinks that desperately needs to read more about the importance of play AND to see kids engaged in play, which is the work of childhood.

    1. I feel as if I am up against a wall sometimes, with novice teachers expected to prepare "academic" lessons for job interviews, families expecting clear academic information...on and on. I know you are right, but many do not.

  2. My colleagues who taught the youngest were sometimes asked to give homework to the students so they could move faster. Luckily the teachers were grounded in what you are writing about, that play is the students' "homework". They too are concerned & feel that the kids are not playing enough before entering kindergarten. I hear you and bless you for your wonderful classroom, Maureen, and love when my grand-girls come home from "exploring"!

  3. I love the points that you make! Society is pushing our children to grow up sooner and faster. What will happen to all the children who have skipped important pieces of their childhood? What kind of adults will they be? I guess time will tell.... ~JudyK

  4. I nodded along as I read your piece. I, too, worry about the burdens we place on our children at such a young age. Faster seems to equal better to many. Thank goodness there are teachers like you who spread the word and advocate practices that benefit all of our children.

  5. As a K teacher I whole-heartedly agree YES to all five. Wonderful observations. Have you read The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about children, learning, and teaching (Glover/Keene)? If not, put it on your summer reading list. It's short essays about beliefs about education written by wonderful Heinemann authors and educators. Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/blog/

  6. Play is essential to the well rounded socialization of children, so the points you make in this post have great relevance. It is a thoughtful and thought provoking piece. Curiosity and wonder reside in places where children are encouraged to explore and be creative. Play on!