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In Pre-K 4, Our Work is Our Play

by Pam Reynolds, SVDPRS Pre-K4 Teacher

My teaching idol is Miss Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus. Her catch phrase is, “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get Messy!” She challenges her students to be fearless and pushes them to stretch their imaginations. As Miss Frizzle’s children explore and investigate, they inevitably make mistakes, but they learn so much from those mistakes. Because they’re actively learning, they get messy, and messy is good!

I’m all about her philosophy – now all I need is that bus! Like Miss Frizzle, I know that young children learn best by doing, which includes playing, working on projects, and experiencing everyday challenges. Learning occurs when children are mentally active, engaged, social, and making meaningful connections to their lives – all memorization, testing, and worksheets do not. When children are playing, they are doing their deepest learning.

Play is a necessary component of brain development for pre-k children. Play is not only fun and social, but it is also crucial to children’s learning and development. A child’s social/emotional, intellectual, and physical abilities are strengthened through play. While playing, children reenact experiences, story tell, improvise, learn how to negotiate, problem solve, and so much more.

Play isn’t an obstruction to learning. Rather, purposeful play experiences create deeper learning for a child. Play in my classroom looks something like this: a few children building structures in the block area, while others are working in the dramatic play area, painting in the creative corner, “reading” to one another in the library, measuring and mixing at the sand table, or experimenting with science materials. To the untrained eye, my classroom may look like controlled chaos – it is a noisy, busy place – but it is actually a pre-k functioning at its best. Children are actively engaged with one another, cooperatively working on projects, experimenting and making discoveries, having meaningful conversations, compromising and resolving conflicts, and honing nearly countless other academic and social/emotional skills. It is noisy, yes – and definitely messy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

You can keep the play, - and the learning – going at home. Play pretend with your child – get into their world, and go with it! Sing and dance. Get involved in an artistic project. Build a pillow fort. Make paper airplanes. Have fun, and watch what happens. Your child will amaze you with what she creates, the vocabulary he uses, the empathy she shows, the imagination he displays, and the world he builds. You’ll be nurturing the developing minds of future scientists, inventors, and innovators. Learning is not just a formal activity done in a classroom – it’s also a lot of fun! Give children the opportunity to question and wonder, experiment, investigate, and play! As my dear Miss Frizzle says, “Get out there and explore!”

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