Santa Clara County is packed with high-achieving parents that want their children to excel. Companies are wise to parents’ drive for their children, and offer up tantalizing educational toys — starting at age newborn. “Baby Einstein” for the early days, and Kumon work books for toddlers, and kids, all promise to give children an academic advantage.
But, how important is academic advantage at age, say, three, and do we achieve it by minimizing free play-time? David Elkind, child development expert, and author of The Hurried Child, says “play is the activity through which children learn to recognize colors and shapes, tastes and sounds — the very building blocks of reality. Play also provides pathways to love and social connection. Elementary school children use play to learn mutual respect, friendship, cooperation, and competition.” In fact, according to Elkind, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, has research indicating children attending academic preschools, experience higher levels of test anxiety, were less creative, and had more negative attitudes toward school then children attending preschools that focused on play. Play helps kids develop their social-emotional skills that then creates an ability to tackle more ably, their toughest problems.
The word is out – there’s media coverage saying today’s companies are starting to place a high value on their potential employees ability to problem-solve and think creatively. If an early push for academic genius kills those prized skills, why not toss the flash cards, and stick to stacking blocks?
Here are a few ideas from David Elkind, to help both foster dialogue with your child as well as boost their creative and critical thinking.
- Ask a child to think of as many things as he or she can think of that you can do with a paper clip, pencil, or napkin.
- When riding in the car, play games like finding how many houses have For Sale signs, front porches, or identify particular car models that you see passing by.
- After watching a TV program together, talk about the story and characters, what did you like and not like about them.
- Watch some ads on TV and criticize them.
- Make up new endings to stories you have just read.
To read more about the value of play, download the brochure.