Your kids are finally asleep.
The evening chores are finally done, or maybe not, and it’s your time to put up your feet and rest. But there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that you didn’t do enough with your preschool children today.
Of course, they were fed and dressed.
They might have played hide & seek with siblings, pretended to be wolves in a forest, and splashed in the tub until their fingers turned wrinkly. You snuggled with your child and read a book or two.
The nagging voice in your head remains saying, “This is not enough.”
Your friend’s child in a well respected preschool returns home with worksheets filled with writing the alphabet.
Or your Pinterest loving friend displays her kids’ crafts all over their perfectly organized playroom.
Perhaps your neighbor’s four year old speaks a second language and memorized her addition and subtraction facts.
You worry, “Most of the time my child only plays. Next year, she starts kindergarten, and she is not ready.”
Outdoor play was a priority for our family when my children were preschoolers.
I consider outdoor play more important than formal schooling for toddlers and preschoolers.
What is Wrong with Most Preschool Education Today
- Young children are kept for hours at at time indoors with little to no access to the outdoors.
- Unstructured play is not an integral part of most preschools’ curriculums
- Parents are encouraged to think that academic learning is more important than free play by preschool teachers and school administration.
- Children’s growing bodies are forced to sit in one space for too long with not enough freedom of movement. This is developmentally inappropriate for preschoolers.
- Preschools often use the bar set in public elementary schools to determine what they need to teach children. The Common Core used in the United States is not developmentally appropriate.
This is what I view as the troubling norm.
Sure, there are wonderful exceptions, but it seems more and more people don’t understand the vital importance of free play in our preschoolers’ lives.
Why Should we Prioritize Unstructured Play over Formal Academics in Preschool
- Children will more likely develop the behavioral habit of self discipline that they need for academic success if they have plenty of time for outdoor play.
- If children don’t have the self regulation needed for school, it will be harder for them to learn in school.
- It doesn’t take hours a day to teach a child the basics for kindergarten readiness. If it is taking hours a day, the child is probably not developmentally ready to learn those concepts.
- There are too many young children with behavioral and social issues in preschool. This is a clear sign that the curriculum is not appropriate, and these children need to learn more self discipline and social skills.
- Academic learning does not teach social skills. Structured and Unstructured Play teaches social skills.
- Time playing and moving outdoors has been proven to improve a person’s emotional and physical well being.
The hours you give your child build sand castles with siblings, pretend play in a fort with friends, and collect rocks and sticks is invaluable to his preparation for school and life.
Don’t feel guilty if your child completes academic work. This can be a wonderful thing for a motivated child.
Keep in mind your child still needs plenty of access to outdoor play in addition to a reasonable amount of academic work.
You are doing enough by allowing your preschool child to play.
All the other stuff is icing on the cake.
How do I know this?
I am a former teacher and mom to four elementary aged children. All my children played a lot outdoors as preschoolers. Since we homeschooled three out four for kindergarten and preschool, we had the option to prioritize play.