Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Importance of 'P' in preschool

Published:Sunday | February 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Parents are aware that the first five years of a child's life are the most important. These are the years that children develop the foundation for future health, development, happiness, and learning achievement at school.

Yet, early childhood education revolves around "colouring, counting, and nap time" or is misunderstood as a child being able to count to double digits and to read at age two. Yet we discount the most important thing: playing.

Most children, ironically, after the age of two, are always asked to either go somewhere and play quietly, to not play at all ,or to do something else "more productive than play". We need to understand that when children play, they develop communication skills.

Playing is a vehicle for learning, not only just in humans, but also in animals. Consider how lion cubs learn to hunt. They watch their mothers hunt. She eventually brings them "a kill" for them to practise.

Or these cubs play with their parents biting and jumping all over them - which allows them to help build their confidence.

It is the same with all children. Playing is how they relate and make sense of the world in which they live.

It is not frivolous or an escape for parents, but playing, research has revealed, unlocks creativity, develops reading, thinking and problem-solving skills within their current preschool environments.

At home, a play-based curriculum or play-based learning would look like construction, manipulation of materials, investigation of their environment, and interactions with their peers and adults.

There are over 10 types of play. Let us look at three of them.


Solitary play


Just like its name, this is when your child plays by himself, which can be as active or as quiet and, as unique as the temperament of your child. It teaches a child how to keep himself entertained, to be self-sufficient and content with their own self-discovery. Think video games!


Parallel play


This involves your child playing beside other children and not with them, which means that the child may be using the same toys, equipment for achieving separate and independent goals, while learning how to interact, relate, and play with others.


Cooperative play


This is when children truly start playing together and is most visible in older preschoolers or younger preschoolers. It is child initiated with peers and brings together social skills, whether it is puzzle building or board games. It sets the stage to relationship management, learning and, of course, playing.

In poor communities, play may be under resourced from a lack of safe places to play and even the removal of physical education in schools. Recognising this, groups like the Playing Out initiative have come together to connect neighbourhoods and declare streets safe for play again.

Or in the words of Austria-born philosopher Martin Buber, "The well-being of a nation lies in the well-being of its children, and play is the exultation of the possible."

Let the children play!

- Article courtesy of the American International School of Kingston (AISK). Send feedback to