Spring-Mar classroom curricula are rooted in the belief that play-based study is the most effective way for early learners to experience science, language, arts, mathematics, music, creative art, and social studies. Countless educational organizations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), recommend this developmental approach over a traditional skills-based program to provide children with the best foundation for future success in school.
But what does play-based really mean? A simple definition would be “learning by doing”. This means children use hands-on activities to formulate an understanding of the world and learning concepts rather than being instructed in rote academic details.
How does the play-based approach look different from traditional approach in the classroom?
We’ll excerpt some information from Erika Christakis, Lecturer on Early Childhood Education at the Yale University Child Study Center, and Nicholas Christakis, social scientist and physician, who compared both philosophies.
“Preschoolers in both programs might learn about hibernating squirrels, for example, but in the skills-based program, the child could be asked to fill out a worksheet, counting(or guessing) the number of nuts in a basket and coloring the squirrel’s fur.
In a play-based curriculum, by contrast, a child might hear stories about squirrels and be asked why a squirrel accumulates nuts or has fur. The child might then collaborate with peers in the construction of a squirrel habitat, learning not only about number sense, measurement, and other principles needed for engineering, but also about how to listen to and express ideas.
The child filling out the worksheet is engaged in a more one-dimensional task, but the child in the play-based program interacts meaningfully with peers, materials, and ideas.
Through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment.
As admissions officers at selective colleges like to say, an entire freshman class could be filled with students with perfect grades and test scores. But academic achievement in college requires readiness skills that transcend mere book learning. It requires the ability to engage actively with people and ideas. In short, it requires a deep connection with the world.
For a five year-old, this connection begins and ends with the creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing that characterize play. When we deny young children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world. By the time they get to college, we will have denied them the opportunity to fix the world too.”
These are powerful words from experts that we apply at Spring-Mar, where learning through play is everywhere and all five senses are engaged every day. Walk through our classrooms and you’ll:
- SEE castles built from recycled materials
- HEAR the sounds of children exploring new musical instruments while they sing and dance
- TOUCH the bins of beans and rice at the sensory tables the kids use to hide and seek objects
- SMELL the cool mud kids touch while they “meet” and feed compost worms
- TASTE the flavors of homemade pancakes that Spring-Mar kids made by measuring ingredients, mixing, and watching the food cook
At Spring-Mar, we firmly believe our graduates are better prepared for academic success by learning through play while they are in preschool.
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At Spring-Mar we strive to help children:
- Value themselves as worthwhile individuals
- Understand the world around them
- Find learning a source of delight and satisfaction
- Feel at ease with other children and adults
- Attain good physical coordination
Indeed, research has shown that creative play fosters social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth.
Play helps children:
Learn to problem-solve, make choices, interact verbally, use symbols and develop persistence
Build emotional security as they try new things without risk of failure
Develop creative, flexible minds
Play is also a self-motivated activity and the most natural way children progress through the stages of developmental learning.
At Spring-Mar, open centers and materials in home-base rooms provide a sequence of experiences for children at varying stages.
Children are permitted to use these materials in a variety of ways. Teachers encourage open-ended projects, as well as creative expression and thinking.
Social/Emotional. Growth in a child’s sense of autonomy and initiative helps build confidence. In addition, a child’s ability to relate well with other children and with adults is a vital goal during the preschool years. Children need to grow in their ability to cope with fears and frustrations and to show persistence in completing a task.
Cognitive. Developing a child’s thinking processes during preschool years involves coming up with interesting ideas, pursuing problems and questions, putting things into relationships and expressing ideas.
Physical Development. Physical aspects of growth provide awareness of one’s body in space–how it moves and the effects of these movements on the environment. Children need opportunities to build small and large muscle coordination.
Spring-Mar also offers vision, hearing and developmental screenings at various times throughout the school year for nominal fees.