Whenever I try to succinctly describe our program for the care and education of young children, I usually mention that The Willows Nursery School offers a play-based curriculum. Every time I say it, I realize that the term play-based has become mere educational jargon that many different types of schools use to refer to what happens in their programs. Unfortunately, parents will find tremendous variation amongst schools about what a play-based program looks like. Rather than trying to generate a checklist of parameters for play-based programs, parents might best identify programs that appropriately encourage play by looking at deeper descriptions of play and thinking about how play benefits children’s human development.
Toward that end, I am very thankful to Eliko Ozeki, one of our parents at The Willows Nursery School, who shared a report published by NPR (2008) with me about the relationship between play and the development of executive functioning. Such sharing of resources and knowledge are consistent with our core school values, and I would like to encourage you to listen to this story at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19212514.
At The Willows, we have created an environment and program schedule that affords children a lot of time and space for elaborate play–especially dramatic play, also known as pretend play or make believe play. Children in our program are freely navigating that path toward higher executive functioning through play and we invite you to contact us if you want to see how one truly play-based program supports children’s learning and development.
Dr. Stuart Brown (2008) explains how “play is more than just fun” in a TED Talk. Fundamentally, Brown promotes a view of play as essential to human development in and of itself and that play is not a way for people to practice or prepare for future performance. He expounds on the various modes of play and his research findings indicate that healthy human development correlates with one having a lot of play experiences. Get comfortable for this one, it runs almost 27 minutes.