- The Down East Partnership for Children in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is highlighting the educational importance of child-directed play by hosting twice-monthly playgroups for families in an economically-depressed area of the state, according to the Hechinger Report.
- The playgroups are based on the Kaleidoscope Play & Learn curriculum and incorporate activities and games that teach parents with children ages birth to 5 how to interact positively with their child, how to advocate for them, and how to help them develop skills that are necessary for success in a school environment.
- The playgroups also allow the Down East Partnership for Children, which is primarily funded through state funds, to identify early developmental issues in children and to help connect parents with the resources they need to optimize their child’s chance for good health and academic success.
The work of the organization highlights the importance of play in early-childhood education, a concept that many educators are “rediscovering.” As Sir Ken Robinson noted in his keynote address delivered earlier this year at the 38th Annual Future of Education Technology Conference, “What’s happened to us that we’ve had to rediscover play in children’s lives and the importance of running around and making up games in free, unstructured time?”
In an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kenneth R. Ginsburg stressed the need for play in healthy childhood development, saying that it "contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth,” and helps children “develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.” Some educators feel that play belongs at home, not at school. However, research supports the value of play in the early childhood classroom.
Play has been pushed out of the classroom, in many cases, because of the pressure to produce verifiable data on development of reading skills at an early age. But experts suggest that play, which includes reading books, storytelling, puppetry, music, and the arts, can build vocabulary and content knowledge, which reinforces literacy development.
The playgroups also demonstrate the importance of giving parents with young children opportunities to interact with each other before kindergarten or pre-K starts — gatherings that principals could also arrange at their schools.