January 26, 2009

Expert: Playtime can be used for learning

Children's playtime is a fundamental way youngsters can learn, an education professor in Illinois says.

University of Illinois Professor Anne Haas Dyson said unstructured playtime in preschool and kindergarten may actually stunt a child's development.

In a statement, she said playtime for children is a fundamental avenue for learning. She also said bombarding children with new information may be counterproductive.

That approach doesn't appreciate the role of play and imagination in a child's intellectual development, Dyson said. Play is where children discover ideas, experiences and concepts and think about them and their consequences. This is where literacy and learning really begins.

She said trying to accelerate learning actually works against a child's development, noting that kindergarten and preschool ought to be a place for children to experience play as intellectual inquiry.

I'm certainly not opposed to literacy in the early grades, Dyson said, but the idea that we can eliminate play from the curriculum doesn't make sense. Kids don't respond well to sitting still in their desks and listening at that age. They need stimulation.