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Putting the Play Back in Kindergarten

Susan Notes:

I first posted this a couple of years ago. It seems well worth repeating. I received these two notes within half an hour of each other. I couldn't answer the first because it's a phony e-mail address. Funny thing: people who write to say something negative rarely give a legitimate address.

from Meridith Green mgreen@nwu.edu: Why do you have this website? It must be easy to find someone's article to publish and write a sentence or two about it. Why don't you write about your own stuff? I just don't understand.

On the other hand, people who write with genuine concern, often feel so intimidated they ask me to withhold their names. I know this person's legitimate address, and I post my answer below, hoping it might be useful to some other kindergarten teachers.

from anonymous: I am currently being harassed by my principal in regards to play in kindergarten. (He wants to do away with it!) We have already limited it to the last 30 minutes of the full-day kindergarten and have to call it plan-do-review to provide some "structure" and he wants to reduce (or cancel) it even more. Can you share with me any research-based articles, books, websites or otherwise that might help back me up in the anti-play fight (or just point me in the right direction)?

Greatly appreciated and keep up the fight!


Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

Please know how angry your principal's ill-informed view makes me. I've gathered together a few resources that I hope will help.

Here's a manifesto on play from a group in Britain.

http://www.ncb.org.uk/resources/cpc_policy_charter.pdf This strong position paper from the Association for Childhood Education International cites research. http://www.acei.org/playpaper.htm

This Canadian document speaks directly about kindergarten play.

http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/kindergarten/kindplay.html

Do you know The Block Book, Elisabeth S. Hirsch editor?

Published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, this book is a treasure. It offers a compilation of the practical and theoretical meanings of block play in early childhood and elementary school curriculum. I have yellow tags throughout, marking great quotes. Here's one important passage:

  • The child needs an autonomous and active role in the learning process.
  • Play is the process by which the child's experience is expressed and organized.
  • Play is enriched as further experience including primary and vicarious information becomes available.
  • Development of play requires adaptable materials which can serve fantasy as well as reality experience.
  • Blocks offer an almost infinite variety of expressive opportunity from floor patterns or designs to veritable engineering feats of bridge building. But blocks remain a means rather than an end in the learning process.
  • Children can achieve true mastery of adaptable materials in their own terms and know the gratification of competence at their level of maturity without dependence upon adult judgment of a given product.
  • The teaching role becomes complementary to the process--providing, enriching, leading on to further experience.
  • Beyond any material lies the need for adult understanding of the child's maturity level and growth, which becomes the base line upon which materials and experience are provided.

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children offers a wealth of resources. Here are a few:

    Chopsticks and Counting Chips

    Preschool-Academics or Play? also speaks to kdg issue.

    Top 10 Signs of a Good Kindergarten Classroom

    Here's a bibliography that might be helpful:

    Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8

    Take a look at The American Association for the Child's Right to Play

    Here's their (strong) position statement.
    THE IPA DECLARATION oF A CHILD'S RIGHT TO PLAY WHAT IS PLAY? * CHILDREN are the foundation of the world's future. * CHILDREN have played at all times throughout history and in all cultures. * PLAY, along with the basic needs of nutrition, health, shelter and education, is vital to develop the potential of all children. * PLAY is communication and expression, combining thought and action; it gives satisfaction and a feeling of achievement. * PLAY is instinctive, voluntary, and spontaneous. * PLAY helps children develop physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. * PLAY is a means of learning to live, not a mere passing of time.
    Here's research on the importance of recess http://www.ipausa.org/recessresearch.html

    Reference
    Association for Childhood Education International/Isenberg, J., & Quisenberry, N. (1988). Play: A necessity for all children. A position paper. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

    Berger, E. (1999). Parents as partners in education: Families and schools working together (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

    Berk, L. (2002). Infants, children, and adolescents (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Burns, S. M., & Brainerd, C. J. (1979). Effects of constructive and dramatic play on perspective taking in very young children. Developmental Psychology, 15, 512-521.

    Christie, J. (2001). Play as a learning medium. In S. Reifel (Ed.), Theory in context and out (Vol. 3, pp. 358-365). Westport, CT: Ablex.

    Clawson, M. (2002). Play of language: Minority children in an early childhood setting. In J. L. Roopnarine (Ed.), Conceptual, social-cognitive, and contextual issues in the fields of play (Vol. 4, pp. 93-116). Westport, CT: Ablex.

    Creasey, G. L., Jarvis, P. A., & Berk, L. (1998). Play and social competence. In O. N. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on play in early childhood education (pp. 116-143). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Dansky, J. L. (1980). Make-believe: A mediator of the relationship between play and associative fluency. Child Development, 51, 576-579.

    Eifermann, R. R. (1971). Social play in childhood. In R. E. Herron & B. Sutton-Smith (Eds.), Child's play. New York: Wiley.

    Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.

    Flynn, L. L., & Kieff, J. (2002). Including everyone in outdoor play. Young Children, 57(3), 20-26.

    Frank, L. K. (1968). Play is valid. Childhood Education, 44, 433-440.

    Fromberg, D. P. (1998). Play issues in early childhood education. In C. Seefeldt (Ed.), The early childhood curriculum: A review of current research (2nd ed., pp. 190-212). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

    Fromberg, D. P. (2002). Play and meaning in early childhood education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Frost, J., Bowers, L., & Wortham, S. (1990). The state of American preschool playgrounds. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 61(8), 18-23.

    Frost, J., Wortham, S., & Reifel, S. (2001). Play and child development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

    Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences (10th anniversary ed.). New York: Basic Books.

    Garvey, C. (1990). Play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bloomsburg.

    Griffin, C., & Rinn, B. (1998). Enhancing outdoor play with an obstacle course. Young Children, 53(3), 18-23.

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    Holmes, R., & Geiger, C. (2002). The relationship between creativity and cognitive abilities in preschoolers. In J. L. Roopnarine (Ed.), Conceptual, social-cognitive, and contextual issues in the fields of play (Vol. 4, pp. 127-148). Westport, CT: Ablex.

    Howes, C., Droege, K., & Matheson, C. C. (1994). Play and communication processes within long- and short-term friendship dyads. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 11, 401-410.

    Hughes, F. (1999). Children, play, and development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Hughes, F. (in press). Sensitivity to the social and cultural contexts of the play of young children. In J. P. Isenberg & M. R. Jalongo (Eds.), Major trends and issues in early childhood education: Challenges, controversies, and insights (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

    Isenberg, J. P., & Jalongo, M. R. (2000). Creative expression and play in early childhood (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

    Jensen, E. (1999). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    Jensen, E. (2000). Moving with the brain in mind. Educational Leadership, 58(3), 34-37. Jenson, B. J., & Bullard, J. A. (2002). The mud center: Recapturing childhood. Young Children, 57(3), 16-19.

    Johnson, J., Christie, J., & Yawkey, T. (1999). Play and early childhood development (2nd ed.). New York: Longman.

    Kumar, S., & Harizuka, S. (1998). Cooperative learning-based approach and development of learning awareness and achievement in mathematics in elementary schools. Psychological Reports, 82, 587-591. Langstaff, N., & Sproul, A. (1979). Exploring with clay. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

    Lieberman, J. N. (1977). Playfulness: Its relationship to imagination and creativity. New York: Academic Press.

    Manning, M. L. (2002). Revisiting developmentally appropriate middle level schools. Childhood Education, 78, 225-227.

    McCune, L., & Zanes, M. (2001). Learning, attention, and play. In S. Golbeck (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on early childhood education (pp. 92-106). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    McGinnis, J. L. (2002). Enriching outdoor environments. Young Children, 57(3), 28.

    Monighan-Nourot, P., & Van Hoorn, J. L. (1991). Symbolic play in preschool and primary settings. Young Children, 46, 40-50.

    Moyer, J. (Ed.). (1995). Selecting educational equipment for school and home. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

    Murata, N., & Maeda, J. (2002). Structured play for preschoolers with developmental delays. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(4), 237-240.

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    Pepler, D. J. (1982). Play and divergent thinking. In D. J. Pepler & H. Rubin (Eds.), Contributions to human development: Vol. 6. The play of children: Current theory and research (pp. 64-78). Basel, Switzerland: Karger.

    Piaget, J. (1962). Play, dreams, and imitation in childhood. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    Roopnarine, J. L, Lasker, J., Sacks, M., & Stores, M. (1998). The cultural context of children's play. In O. N. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on play in early childhood education (pp. 194-219). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Roopnarine, J. L., Shin, M., Donovan, B., & Suppal, P. (2000). Sociocultural contexts of dramatic play; Implications for early education. In K. A. Roskos & J. F. Christie (Eds.), Play and literacy in early childhood (pp. 205-230). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Rubin, K. H., Fein, G., & Vanderberg, B. (1983). Play. In P. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (pp. 693-774). New York: Wiley.

    Rubin, K. H., & Howe, N. (1986). Social play and perspective-taking. In G. Fein & M. Rivkin (Eds.), The young child at play: Reviews of research (Vol. 4, pp. 113-125). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Rubin, K. H., Maioni, T. L., & Hormung, M. (1976). Free-play behaviors in middle and lower class preschoolers: Parten and Piaget revisited. Child Development, 47, 414-419.

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    — Susan Ohanian
    response to e-mail
    2008-03-18


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