. . . I also observe that my children’s play is far more free and creative and self-sustaining than that of children in formal preschool programs. I see mine figuring things out and making connections that their preschool and formal school at home little friends do not. Being able to recite impressive facts and write calligraphy at 4 is flashier, showier, and more obvious at first glance- but these are skills easily and quickly obtained when the child is older. What my children are learning now as they spend their time digging holes, playing in the water, running in the grass and watching ants, is less easily shown off, but more long lasting in results.
This kind of free childhood play builds a solid foundation for later learning.
A child who has spent lots of free time paddling in puddles at four really will understand something of the properties of water, of the meaning of island and tidal wave, of islands and peninsulas and the fact that water seeks its own level that a child who has not had the same freedom will not. One child is learning head knowledge, rote facts- the other is building a relationship with the world around him, the world of nature…
Play is vastly important to little children, as is lots of free time- this will do them far more good than sitting at the table performing small motor tasks that they often simply are not developmentally ready for yet. More and more we are cheating our young children of their birthright, and at the risk of irritating some very nice people I wish to shout from the rooftops a plea that we not discount the incredible and incomparable educational value of play for children. Blocks, leggos, puzzles, dolls, stacking cans, washing dishes and doll clothes, sand and water play, fingerpainting, stories and more stories, singing songs, climbing, running, jumping, marching, helping you cook, playing with a bit of breaddough- lots and lots and lots of pretending, imagining, cutting and pasting and working with real stuff- activities such as these build brain power in a way no workbook or program can duplicate. . . .
The whole entry is great; though, as she says, rather long. And the comments thread is interesting too.