The play’s the thing…

Every year the kindergarten students in a New York school put on a show for parents, family and friends.

Until this year.

A recent story  in the Winnipeg Free Press revealed that this year’s performances, originally scheduled for two days in May, have been cancelled.

Headlined “College prep kills kindergarten play’ the story quoted school officials who said that  the kids needed to keep on working so they would be “college and career ready”.


We have heard much about the value of play-based learning for young children. Debra Mayer of Manitoba’s Early Childhood Unit in the Department of Education, has said that play-based learning remains important until children reach the age of eight years old. Definitely, it is essential for five-year-olds.

In that context, it sounds to me that an end-of-year celebration which includes a play/musical presentation is more developmentally appropriate than additional days spent at a desk or computer.

If you’ll excuse the play on words, putting on a play could be considered play. (If you had been asked to construct a sentence using the word ‘play’ three times, would you have come up with this one?)

Judging by the posted comments on this article, there are many who agree with me. Let the children have their play. Let the children be children.

Earlier this year I had read another article which decried what the author perceived as a parental tendency to start  children along the academic road earlier and earlier. So far so good. In wanting the best for their children, parents do sometimes get excited about reading, writing and arithmetic long before they need to.

But the example the author gave was reading to children under the age of one year. The author claimed that this was an illustration of pushing books at children long before it was necessary or helpful.

I am not sure what, if any,  science he relied upon for his statements. Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful at finding the article a second time so I cannot provide the author’s name and qualifications.

But I can say that his opinions on this  matter are not widely shared.

On April 30 this year, for example, the Winnipeg Free Press carried a story which quoted British researchers as saying that by the time they are nine months old, babies can use pictures to learn about an object and later recognize the real thing.

“The study should interest any parent or caregiver who has ever read a picture book with an infant,” University of London lecturer Jeanne Shinskey said.

“For parents and educators, these findings suggest that well before their first birthdays and their first words, babies are capable of learning about the real world indirectly from picture books,”

So, contrasted to what the earlier author had said,, recent study results suggest there are definite learning benefits to reading to your infant.

But it’s not just about the learning, either. Something wonderful happens when a parent holds an infant and reads to him. It’s about parent-child engagement and attachment, connecting to your child and your child connecting to you.

Good stuff that will prove its benefits years later. Perhaps when your child learns a new song for a kindergarten play, for example.

Assuming the powers that be don’t decide to cancel it.




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