Here’s what the experts have to say:
While research on brain development is in its infancy, it is believed that play shapes the structural design of the brain. We know that secure attachments and stimulation are significant aspects of brain development; play provides active exploration that assists in building and strengthening brain pathways. Play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life’ (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 9).
Young children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. The intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing have been well documented. Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behaviour, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning (Bodrova & Leong, 2005).
Let the Kids Learn Through Play (The New York Times)
What Is A Play-Based Approach To Preschool? (sheknows.com)
A Case for Co-Ops
When I started researching pre-schools for my son, I was quickly overwhelmed with all the different options and philosophies of each school. After taking in all the schedules, tuitions and requirements, I sat down and made a list of what the ideal pre-school would look like for my family.
I wanted my son to play and learn. Get dirty, fall and get up. Laugh and connect. Talk and listen. Learn how to be a student and a friend.
Afterwards, when I read over my list, I realized I was looking for a school and a community — one who’d create a soft landing for my son and his first school experience and support my husband and I throughout the process.
We chose a co-op for many reasons: Tuition being in line with our budget and flexible schedules that allowed for parent participation in the classroom was only part of it.
The most important thing was this: I felt love there. I saw the teacher giving hugs to each child at the beginning and ending of each day and spending hours after school working on activities to enrich her students’ lives. I saw parents who wanted to be a part of their child’s life and mine.
When my son had a hard time saying goodbye at drop-off, I watched other mothers hold him, wipe his tears and ask him about his favorite baseball team. Later, they texted me a picture of him smiling.
It meant the world to me.
Because we chose a co-op, I felt connected to my child’s first school experience. I knew the ins and outs of the day and could ask genuine questions that elicited better answers than, “It was fine.” I saw my son interact with others, which gave me fodder for conversations about the good and not so good at home.
We all learned a lot by being a part of a co-op. I made friends and found safe places to ask parenting questions. And when his years there were through, I cried tears of gratitude and sadness, knowing it’d never get better — or sweeter — than our co-op years.
—Danny Bonvissuto, Seal Beach Playgroup parent 2013-2015