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Preschool

  • Play, preschool and academics

    Three decades ago, 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. Today, this number has fallen dramatically. Over the years, play has become second fiddle to early academic preparation. But are we actually helping children succeed academically and socially by reducing the amount of play in their day?

    Recent research shows that preschool children who engage in various forms of open-ended play display more complex language skills, more developed social skills, greater levels of empathy, higher levels of creativity, and better-developed interpersonal skills. Additionally, preschool children who spend more time playing are less aggressive, exhibit higher levels of executive function, display more complex thinking skills, and have brains with more complex neurological structures.

    Nations like China, Japan and Finland are touted for their exceptional international math and science assessment scores. Those countries also boast preschools that are playful and experimental, not instructive. Much has been written about Finland and the Scandinavian approach to education, where play is a priority and getting dirty is encouraged and viewed as an opportunity to learn.

    A new documentary shows the contrasts between America’s craze for standardized tests and Scandinavia’s acceptance of nature. Play serves as a powerful engine that drives learning in the preschool years and beyond. “NaturePlay: Take Childhood Back” examines this issue. The underlying differentiation shown in the film is the notion that “children belong in nature and nature belongs in education.”

    Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal featured an article on The Scandinavian School of Jersey City, a “gentle place where 92 children play barefoot to feel a connection to their environment and the air often smells like peppermint or citrus from aromatherapy. Classrooms have bowls of pine cones, seashells and rocks for toys. Some chairs are sawed-off tree stumps.”

    Children who experience play-based preschool programs boast a strong advantage over those who are denied play and are more likely to become happy, healthy, well-adjusted grownups.

    How would you feel about sending your child to a play-focused preschool?

  • New Jersey nursery school updates playground with Playworld equipment

    When Dana Cavanaugh recently became the director at Prospect Cooperative Nursery School, she strongly felt the Maplewood, New Jersey, facility was in need of new, versatile playground equipment that helped young children to feel more physically confident while having more fun.

    With these goals -- and absolute requirements of impeccable safety ratings and long-lasting equipment -- Cavanaugh began searching for a vendor, beginning a selection process she said was “quite overwhelming”.

    “There were many manufacturers with endless choices to choose from, but we went with Playworld based on a recommendation and we’re happy we did,’’ said Cavanaugh.

    The Spring 2016 installation process began with a representative from George Ely Associates, a distributor Playworld equipment, paying a visit to Prospect School.

    “The rep from George Ely Associates really listened to our needs and constraints,” Cavanaugh said. “Taking these factors into account, he came back with a plan.”

    The school chose the Moon Rock Climber, a structure that encourages exploration and discovery, and the Butterfly Climber, equipment that provides children with a safe and fun place to practice their balance and coordination skills.

    From start to finish, the playground project took about three months. Since installation, countless children have engaged with the equipment, climbing, running, jumping and socializing in the play space. Being outside allows the young students at Prospect the freedom to explore their creativity and offers them experiences not provided in the classroom.

    “Playing outside is necessary for the growth and development of preschool children,” said Cavanaugh. “We’re happy we chose Playworld to help us with the early gross motor development of our students. We are already looking to replace another structure on our playground and Playworld is helping us with that now. We’re really excited to be working with the company again and can't wait to see what other outdoor adventures are in store for our kids.”

    Are you in need of innovative, safe playground equipment for your school? Get in touch with your local Playworld representative today.

  • Investing in early childhood play is an investment in tomorrow’s leaders

    A vast majority of young children are accustomed to their daily routine: school and homework.

    Kindergarteners, in addition to spending most of their time indoors, are spending nearly 25 minutes a day on homework. This is despite the fact that the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parents Teachers Association (PTA) don’t endorse homework for kindergarten.

    Preschoolers are not getting enough play. 30 years ago, it was a different story – 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. This number has more recently fallen to a meager 25 percent (Miller & Almon, 2009).

    Play is critical for young children to develop various skills that they’ll utilize throughout their lives.  Engaging in unstructured play allows children to explore and develop numerous abilities such as problem-solving, decision making and self-expression.

    Children need interaction, imagination, and creativity. Countries such as China, Japan and Finland, often touted for exceptional international math and science assessment scores, boast preschools that are full of fun and experimental learning – via play!

    Research shows that play serves as a strong engine to power learning in the preschool years and beyond. Children under 5 enrolled in play-based preschool programs possess a strong advantage over those who are denied play, and are more likely to grow into happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults.

    In fact, a recent review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper revealed that the benefits of homework are highly reliant on age. The review found that for elementary school-aged kids and younger, it is best to hold off on homework because it can potentially have a negative impact. When assigned too early on, homework can foster a negative attitude towards school in general. And it takes time away from them playing, and learning through play.

    It’s clear that when they play, young children develop fine and gross motor skills, balance and strength, plus cognitive and social skills. Playworld’s early childhood play equipment are specifically engineered to build these skills and help children make the most of their priceless play time.

    Learn more about our early childhood product offerings here.

  • Play like a champ: making every Sunday ‘super’

    On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will go head to head in Super Bowl 50.

    Super Bowl Sunday is no doubt an awesome day to hangout with friends, crack open a drink and snack on wings and hoagies. But I think Sundays in general are an ideal time for sneaking in some much needed play.

    Even the NFL agrees. The organization runs NFL PLAY 60, a campaign designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, after-school and team-based programs and partnerships with like-minded associations.

    So how can you make this and every Sunday super? Aim for play!

    Weather or not
    Sort of like the US Postal Service, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, should keep us from playing. Commit to making Sunday a play day regardless of the weather or season.

    Dress for adventure
    Instead of sporting your “Sunday best”, opt for sweats or other casual clothes. Head outside with the family and see what happens. Make mud puddles your friend.

    Who’s the boss?
    Let the kids decide how they want to spend their time outside. Start shifting away from adult-dictated and supervised play to kid-directed free play. As a dad, I’ve seen many positive changes when I empower my boys.

    How do you ensure playtime for your family on the weekends?

  • Keep play in preschool

    Just 30 years ago, 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. Today, this number has fallen to just 25 percent (Miller & Almon, 2009). Over the years, play has taken a back seat to early academic preparation. But does reducing play in preschool benefit children academically and socially?

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