How important is play to children? Do they get anything out of it or is it a waste of time? Some believe play is crucial to development…
I never really realised the true importance of play for children until I went to university. In first year we had a module all about how children learn from play. I’ve got to be honest, it turned me into a bit of a hippy and now I have a dream that I will teach one day or home-school my child and take them on marvellous adventures…
This child-centred learning approach began in a city in Italy – Reggio Emilia. The whole philosophy is based upon children being able to learn through experience with control over the direction of their learning, to explore material things and relationships with others and to be able to express themselves. The natural pace of development is central to this approach as is the child’s citizenship – their rights and their right to reach their potential.
In Reggio Emilia, parents, teachers and the community all play a vital role to make this philosophy work, some parents volunteer in the school and many take home the schools principles too. This form of learning by doing is supported by Piaget who theorised that children learn best this way.
If I were to send my child to school I know that a Montessori school would be my first choice. Montessori is again from Italy, Maria Montessori developed this philosophy emphasising the importance of holistic well-being and social, psychological and physical development.
Montessori schools often have mixed age group classrooms which I think is great – the older children can help the younger ones by scaffolding their learning (Vygotsky) and Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum theory whereby children can tackle the same topic in age appropriate ways expanding their knowledge each time.
It is also usual for children to get to choose an activity from a prescribed range so although it is more limited that Reggio they do get a choice – and I’m sure from working with children myself that children get much more from the activity if they’ve gotten to choose it.
They also follow Piaget’s constructionist theory whereby children learn from discovery and children have freedom to move around the classroom.
I think the reason I love this method so much is because it treats children like individuals and citizens in their own right where they given choice and trust which I think will really help them to develop into responsible citizens as they grow older.
The clues in the name really! I did a couple of lessons in our own forest at university, it was great and you can tell why children absolutely love it. It’s all about developing emotional intelligence, social skills, teamwork and informal play – another child led approach. Another reason I love it is because I really do care about nature and the environment and this instils knowledge about the environment, sustainability and global citizenship in the children.
The main reasons I love all of the above:
- Child centred not teacher led
- Child enjoys learning
- They learn how to be an active citizen rather than passive
- Children are allowed to be unique
- Children are taught to think for themselves
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with many amazing teachers in state schools, and they are amazing at their job and they care so much for the children – but there is only so much they can do when they are so restricted by the governments legislation which is made by people who have never been near a primary school teaching post.
When it comes down to it, teachers are expected to have evidence for everything they do, be inspected on a regular basis, force children to do standardised testing even at such a young age… all on top of teaching, listening, answering questions, caring, giving pastoral support, giving encouragement, managing behaviour, training, planning, etc. etc. If teachers were trusted and allowed to teach, inspire and spend time with the children then the children would gain so much more, and teachers wouldn’t have to leave the job with stress! Oh and don’t get me started on the adult:child ratio!
Oh dear, doing this blog is really making me want to go back to university! I had better stop now. Thanks for reading 🙂