Kindergarten Trends to Less Play, More Academics: How Does It Affect Children?

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Checking the Pulse

AOTA's Checking the Pulse blog is written by digital editor Stephanie Yamkovenko who reads hundreds of health and policy articles weekly to find the most engaging and enlightening content. Go beyond the news and learn how it affects OT.

Kindergarten Trends to Less Play, More Academics: How Does It Affect Children?

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A new study finds that kindergarten has shifted since 1998 to be more about academics and less about play. Education Week shared infographics of the findings, which includes some of the following:A student in kindergarten

  • 31% of teachers in 1998 believed students should learn to read in kindergarten compared to 80% in 2010.
  • 35% of teachers in 1998 believed it was important for children to enter kindergarten knowing how to use a pencil and paintbrush. In 2010, 68% of teachers believed this.
  • 87% of classrooms had a dramatic play area in 1998. In 2010, 58% had one.

With play being a main occupation for children and a major source of learning, we rounded up several articles and resources about the importance of play that you can share.

What Do Occupational Therapy Practitioners Say About Play?

An occupational therapist wrote an article for the Washington Post about how the decline of play in preschool has led to a rise in other issues.

The OT, Angela Hanscom, says in the article, “if children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions.”

Last year, the New York Times ran an op-ed about how children need to learn through play quoting a source who says the trend toward more academics is a “profound misunderstanding of how children learn.”

Resources About the Importance of Play

We’ve had some posts recently on Checking the Pulse about the importance of play. This post about heavy work activities and chores being a solution to aggression is one of our most popular pins on Pinterest. This post about how we can’t expect kids to sit still all day is full of alternatives and solutions from occupational therapy practitioners.

AOTA’s tip sheet for parents describes why play is important and what OT practitioners can do to help children learn through play.

Advocating for Play in Your School & Community

OT Amy Baez of Playapy wrote an ode to play for February, “the time of year for professing your true love.” She says the more that we become passionate about play advocacy, the more attention is brought to the issue.

Amy might be on to something! This article is about a school in New York City that recently stopped giving out homework so children could play more at home. Students in kindergarten through 5th grade at P.S. 116 no longer get traditional homework.

Have you seen examples of schools going back to focusing more on play? Have you helped advocate for more recess or less homework? Share about it in the comments.

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