The Importance of Active Play in Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Active Play in Early Childhood Education


Blog post by: Mrs. Laurie Flaherty, Director of Pre-Kindergarten at BJAMS

Times have changed and education is trying to keep up with those changes. For those of us old enough to remember a world without cell phones, we see how the world around us is moving faster. Children today are playing outside less and connected to technology more. The demands on children in terms of expectations academically have also sped up. More than ever, it is important for children to receive high quality early childhood education experiences to help prepare them for success in school and success in life. Preschool is the foundation of education and it can foster a lifelong love of learning; more importantly, it also provides children with important social and emotional development experiences that are critical to creating better outcomes for children.

I have four children ranging in age from 8-17 and I have seen a shift in young children, especially in the realm of social and emotional development. Preschool play dates for my now 15 and 17-year-olds never involved electronics and it seemed like there were more trips to the playground in those days. I am not a scientist but I think because the world is moving faster and we are so connected to technology, many children are lacking in important social skills because “play” is so different today. I don’t blame this on parents, I think this is just a societal shift and I think things have moved so fast that we as parents, caregivers and teachers haven’t been able to keep up in order to preserve those early childhood experiences that help to develop this domain area in young children. Did you know that young children require 2-3 hours per day of active play to achieve adequate sensory stimulation to their nervous systems for healthy development? When the nervous system is under stimulated, the visual and auditory sensory systems are in “overload.” This sensory imbalance creates problems in overall neurological development that can lead to issues with behavior and a child’s ability to process emotions.

Although I believe that young children thrive when there is structure and routine, I also believe that they need ample opportunity throughout the day, inside and outside of school, to engage in physical and creative play. By engaging in active group play or learning, children are discovering how to work together co-operatively and self-regulate their emotions; and this learning is as important as the time we spend on our academic standards.

We know that many young children today are struggling in the area of social and emotional development but if we can provide them with a safe and nurturing environment where they can learn and practice these skills under the guidance of a teacher, parent or other trusted adult, we can help ensure their future success in school and in life. Let’s remember how important it is that we provide this education alongside our traditional learning. And next time your young child says, “I’m bored,” I encourage you to take a trip the playground and leave your cell phone in the car. It will benefit you and your child since the adult nervous system is being impacted by technology use as well. But that’s another blog post!