In the commemoration of the birth of Friedrich Fröbel, father of pre-school education, we reflect on the 15 thousand hours that every child should play during his early childhood.
Play as a primary element in children’s lives, and it is as old as our own civilization. More than two thousand years ago a teacher of Latin rhetoric named Quintilian declared that “let the study be for the child as a game.” In a much mo
re recent publication, entitled “Child and play, theoretical approaches and pedagogical applications,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that:
“Games can truly provide pedagogical practice, far beyond kindergarten, as a means of stimulating creativity, and modern psychology has emphasized the influence of behaviors and objects, evidently shaped by cultural and social environment, on the development of the personality .”
According to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania: “Children learn best in play environments, through guided games, with appropriate content.” Even large innovation and technology companies like Google have incorporated this principle into their organizational culture.
Today, the dilemma faced by many teachers is how to deal with a curriculum with a heavy load of knowledge and a context that recognizes “hard” skills as superior to the so-called “soft” skills. The so-called hard skills are all the formal academic knowledge that integrates the curriculum, while soft skills have to do with how we externalize those skills, i.e., attitude, ethics, values, emotional intelligence, between others.
Who in his right mind would say today that working as a team is less important than the speed of calculation, that effectively communicating an idea is less critical than performing a differential equation or that creativity is optional versus the domain of a programming language. In the current context, all these skills are equally necessary, and in many cases, the so-called “soft” are those that define the success or otherwise of a project, idea or relationship.
Now, we know as teachers, that many often these aspects that are so important to achieve a life in balance, to be happy and to relate harmoniously with the others, are left aside. Probably, and here I dare to quote Rudolf Steiner, creator of the Waldorf pedagogy when he wisely said: “you can only transmit to the child that which the master has already conquered in himself.”
According to a publication on the website Educar Chile, in 1981 American children used 40% of their time to play in classrooms, while in 1997 the New York Times reported that that figure had declined by 25% and by 2002, it dropped to an alarming number of 9%. Is this an educational progress or regress? Is it an appropriate approach to continue to sacrifice play time in the classroom for more formal curricular activities? In any case, how much is the recommended play time for a child? Continue reading “To Play is vital to learn”