The Power of Play

Here at TotSpot Preschool, we are always in search for just the right balance of play and academics within in our program, which amazingly go hand in hand with each other.  When developing our program, we have to constantly look at what is best for the children that we teach.  We ask ourselves, “What is it that we want our children to learn?”  This isn’t a simple question, even though it may seem to be.  We don’t only look at the knowledge based answers,

Shaving cream exploration with dinosaurs and cars
Free exploration with different materials, builds self confidence, concrete knowledge of cause and effect, creativity and many more skills!

but also the social-emotional and cognitive skills that will help shape each child into a healthy, happy, successful adult, being an asset to society and to the world around them.   Yes, we want them to learn their ABC’s and 123’s but we know that just because they know those things, that it doesn’t guarantee success later on.  How does the child brain really develop and what are the best ways to help that developing brain grow and make connections that will guarantee success later on in life?

Did you know that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 5?

That means that a large majority of their brain is already connected to real life experiences like problem solving and how to cope with the life around them before they even go to kindergarten .   We do grow and refine our brain during the remainder of our lives, but the majority of the growth happens in early childhood.  This really makes us think about the importance of everything we do here at TotSpot Preschool, from the conversations we have during snack time to how our small group learning centers are structured.

The current popular education trend is to push, push, push academics onto our children, pushing younger and younger children to do things that they are not developmentally ready for or lack the skills to complete it because their cognitive foundations are not yet stable.  This can cause frustration and feelings of self worthlessness and failure.  So, how do we make these foundations stable?  The answer is Play.  Play has become taboo to most parents and educators, but it should not be the case.  If we were to call it something else (which it actually is) we could label it as, exploration, experience or experimentation.  The problem is that some see play as a time waster, when really there are many, many cognitive and social-emotional connections being built in a child’s brain.

Boys build tall block tower
Block play increases spatial, physical and scientific skills

For example, when a child builds with blocks, and creates a very tall tower, what are they learning???  Let me fill you in on some of the things that are being built in their brains that they wouldn’t get sitting in a desk facing front and sitting up straight.  They are learning spacial awareness (needed to move, write, read, count etc), they are learning engineering skills (weight, height, problem solving, physics, spacial recognition, scientific method, etc).  They are learning cause and effect (problem solving, critical thinking,etc), they will even experience social-emotional skills when (and it will happen, and it’s not a bad thing) another peer comes and knocks down their tower.  They learn to become emotionally literate by recognizing their feelings (frustration, anger, sadness) and self regulation (don’t hit the other kid) when conflicts like this happen.  Here at TotSpot preschool, our teachers model how to resolve conflict when these learning opportunities come.  These conflict resolution skills are a necessary part of growing up to be a successful human being.  Anyone agree with me? We want children that can problem solve instead of just falling apart, looking for someone else to solve their problem .  We want adults that can problem solve on their own and don’t need anyone to hold their hand and fix their problem for them.  Play is where children can act out and practice real life problems, then find solutions for them in a safe environment, with positive teacher modeling and encouragement.  Connections in their brains are connecting the problem with possible solutions.  “Will it work?”  “Oh, it didn’t”, “what can I try next?”  We believe that experience is a huge asset when trying to build these important connections during the early years.

We know that when it comes to choosing a preschool, that you have many options.  Remember to keep in mind that you know your child best, and know what is best for them.  We are working hard to provide an environment that will nurture and grow the very delicate brain connections that are growing every second of your child’s days.  We love to show our parents our loving and secure environment that we work so hard to establish here at TotSpot Preschool.  Come see what we are working so hard to create for the children that come and allow us to teach and love them each and every day.