As higher education and strong academic achievement become more important for our children, so does the pressure to start teaching as soon as possible. But how should we be teaching our young children in daycare or preschool?
Researchers have conducted several studies regarding the effects of traditional academic learning and play-based learning on young children and have found that more fun can equal more academic success in the short and long term.
For example, one study suggested that children who go to preschools that take a traditional academic approach—children sitting in desks, completing worksheets, and learning specific rules on how to play—learn to read and write later than kids who attend play-centric daycares and preschools. The play-centric approach means letting the children engage in imaginative play, figuring out how to play with toys rather than being told how to play with them, and less formal instruction.
So what does this mean for parents? For one, it means that you can relax about putting your child in a hyper-academic daycare or preschool. Look for options that encourage both independent and group play so that your child learns social skills and expands his or her imagination. Those skills will not only help your child succeed socially and creatively, but research suggests it may also spark a greater thirst for knowledge.
Second, put away the high-tech toys and go back to your roots with Lincoln Logs, building blocks, basic Legos, and books. Let your child lead the way as you play with these toys together. See what his or her imagination can build with the blocks, and talk to your child about what he or she is building. Discuss the books you read together by asking questions about the story or characters after every few pages.
These techniques encourage your child to develop critical thinking skills and teach him or her to create, rationalize, and develop a desire to learn, which will help your child succeed in school and in life.