pretend play horsesI’ve always  been a proponent of play in preschool settings. Based on research, we know that play develops communication skills and social and emotional development.

A recent article in the Washington Post “The Playtime’s the Thing,” supports the importance of play with preschoolers. The author describes a delightful scenario of 5 year-olds playing pretend hair salon using a plastic fork as a hairbrush, taking appointments by phone and curling a client’s hair with an egg beater! In this pretend play, there is more being learned than just taking on creative play roles.

The article goes on to say that “Research has shown that by 23, people who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.”

Play is developing language and social skills as well. More recent research showed that certain kieds of fantasy play helps children learn to control their impulses, which is more closely correlated with academic success in kindergarten than intelligence is.

So why are we decreasing play time in an effort to push academic preparation? Children can learn academic skills through play and it is much more meaningful.

Keep this in mind when chosing a preschool for your child, and looking for a balance in how their day is spent.