Researching preschools can be an overwhelming task. The quality, safety and price of programs all have a big influence on your decision, but one of the most critical elements that will influence your child’s development and experience is the curriculum.
Play-based curriculums have long been used in preschools, including our own, and for good reason. Research points toward a variety of benefits:
- Preschoolers thrive when they are able to experiment, test things out for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
- Imaginative, creative, spontaneous play goes a long way toward fostering healthy development and setting the stage for both social and academic success later, according to psychologist and educator David Elkind.
- Play is the foundational building block of human cognition, emotional health, and social behavior. It improves memory and helps children learn mathematical problems in their heads, take turns, regulate their impulses, and speak with greater complexity, according to early childhood educator and author Erika Christakis.
- Behavioral research suggests that play prepares children to become social, caring, thinking and creative citizens.
Play-based learning doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all child-guided open play. Quality preschool programs have structure, which includes the staff setting specific learning goals and then executing them through a healthy mix of guided and free play. There is always an emphasis on learning, but it occurs as children are engaged in fun activities such as games, toys, crafts, stories and music.
Making learning fun at an early age helps children embrace a positive attitude for learning as they progress through elementary school and beyond.