I’ve just started looking at preschools for my daughter to attend next fall. They all have such structured schedules. Aren’t kids allowed to just play anymore?
The concern revealed from your question is justified. There are hundreds of books on the market today that discuss the importance of play in a child’s social, emotional and physical development. As children engage in free play less often and are less active, a wide range of problems have increased. Those areas of concern include obvious and easily measurable results such as the lack of general physical well-being and obesity, to more subtle issues such as a loss of creativity, and an inability to socialize and get along with others.
A good preschool will have both an outdoor recess type of play as well as an indoor play time which may be designated on the class schedule by the terms, centers or station time. It has long been said that play is a child’s work in which, while acting out various roles, they learn about themselves and their relationship to others. My favorite play centers for early childhood have always been housekeeping, dollhouse and blocks. At centers like these children have the opportunity to role play with their peers and engage creatively instead of participating in an adult directed group activity.
Take another look at the preschools that you like and ask if they have these type centers and how often the children are permitted to use them. As important as unstructured play is though, arts and crafts and early reading and math readiness skills are also an important part of a good preschool education. Science themes on child friendly topics like bugs and plants, and a Social Studies curriculum that exposes children to types of families and communities that may be different from what they are used to, should round out the curriculum.
Don’t forget to ask other moms in your area what preschool they like and why. Word of mouth usually results in the better preschools filling up quickly. Don’t procrastinate or your child may end up on a waiting list.