Play’s the thing

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Bridget Wilmot

It was Albert Einstein who said, “Play is the highest form of research.”1

Ralph Waldo Emerson countered with, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”2 Though the world is ever-changing, we cannot afford to underestimate the value of play in early childhood development. It doesn’t matter what strengths or weaknesses a child has, play has a way of connecting them to others. Children come together and spontaneously learn from each other, be it in a structured or non-structured environment.

Play part of every day

At Kingswood Pre-Primary School, play forms an integral part of our day. In a structured environment, we use play for children to make discoveries as we strive to develop each one’s full potential. Each child is unique and, by affording them the chance to develop at their own pace, our aim at the end of each year is to have happy, well-adjusted, competent and confident children.

Young children love to sing, and to this end, we are fortunate to have teachers from our music school coming to spend time at the pre-primary centre twice a week. These sessions – involving musical games, free movement, dancing, singing and learning to distinguish between different types of music – captivate the children. They learn so much, but essentially it is all play to them.

We encounter more and more children who are battling with low muscle tone – a factor that seems to be common in an environment where children spend less time in active play. We therefore concentrate on gross motor activities in our daily programme. These activities challenge each child on a daily basis to do or try something that perhaps they might not otherwise attempt.

Play supplemented by important screening

Fantasy and role play should play an important role in each child’s development, and our young students are fortunate to have a large selection of ‘dress-up clothes’. One of the highlights of the first term, when we are discussing families, is for the children to come to school dressed up as mom or dad. Their sense of humour is evolving at this stage, and while for some it is still a serious business coming dressed up as an adult, others can see the humour in it, which is all part of the learning experience.

We have enlisted the help of a part-time teacher, who assists with small group activities in an attempt to meet each child’s individual needs. This has proved to be of so much value for each Grade 1 child. In addition, along with our teacher aides, it has allowed us to have a 9:1 pupil: teacher ratio at our school. We are also able to tap into the expertise of the professionals serving our junior school. At the start of each year, there are various screening processes that are completed for each child, including hearing, visual, speech/language and auditory perceptual skill screenings as well as occupational therapy sessions.

The play’s the thing!

Our end-of-year concert has become a great confidencebuilding tool for our children. The transformation, satisfaction and accomplishment that is achieved by the shy ones is always a wonderful moment to witness. Everyone rises to the occasion, and our audiences are always astounded that the young performers are all under the age of six! At the end of the day, the production is a culmination of all the playing – the music, the movement and the dressing up – and the fact that the moms and dads come to watch is just an added bonus!

Bridget Wilmot is a pre-primary teacher in the junior school at Kingswood College in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.

References:
1. See, for example: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Albert_Einstein_Research/.
2. See, for example: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/30586-it-is-a-happytalent-
to-know-how-to-play.

 

 

Category: Autumn 2011

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