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Why Play Matters

Some of the most robust research findings in early childhood are those that show the importance of play to optimal developmental outcomes in young children. Studies have repeatedly shown that if we want children to develop strong academic skills by upper elementary school, as well as the 21st century skills of persistence, sustained attention, creativity, cooperation, and problem solving, we need to be cultivating rich, play experiences for children while they are preschoolers. We understand this at Sayre and build our curriculum, schedules and classroom environments in ways that develop and extend children’s play.

Benefits of play in the early years include the following:

  • The experience of playing affects the neurology of the prefrontal cortex during early childhood, supporting the development of executive function which allows children to regulate their emotions, sustain their attention, make plans, and solve problems.
  • Play increases children’s cognitive ability to interact with the world on a symbolic level. This understanding then supports their later abilities to use symbols to represent meaning during early reading, writing and math instruction. There is a link between children’s symbolic play and later reading, writing and academic achievements.
  • Playing helps children learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways.
  • It allows children to practice making decisions and to experiment with outcomes in a low pressure environment. This process gives them experience with cause and effect and resembles the scientific process.
  • Play-based environments cultivate robust opportunities for conversation which build children’s language skills and vocabulary
  • It offers endless opportunities to build both fine and gross motor skills.  During play, children will practice physical skills over and over again until they master them.
  • Children gain confidence and increase their self-esteem through play. Children at play take risks and gain a feeling of power. Play is far less likely to result in failure than more rigid, teacher-directed activities.
  • Children build their conceptual understandings of math, science, cause and effect, and the natural world through play. When toddlers pour water or sand at the water table, they are learning about quantity, mass and volume. When preschoolers determine that two triangle unit blocks make a square block, they are learning conceptually about fractional parts and area even though it will be years before they use those mathematical terms.

Come visit our classrooms and see our teachers and children at work and play. Our classrooms are filled with positive energy as children seek, innovate, pretend and explore their world!