Scientific Research has confirms the value of Play-Based Kindergartens.
In a calm and beautiful setting that is warm and home-like, young children in the preschool and kindergarten classes at Suncoast Waldorf School enjoy a full hour of self-initiated play. The open-ended quality of playthings such as cut branches, sand bags, knitted “sleepy snails” and seashells leave room for the imagination. Fibers such as wool, cotton, and silk provide the varied textures that enhance the child’s sensory integration. The traditional house corner with hand made dolls, dollbeds, kitchen, tables and chairs invite the children to try on the roles of mother and father, sister and brother.
Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking. This is the most sound preparation for formal academic work that will be introduced in first grade.
The rhythm of the day flows seamlessly and unhurriedly from this self-initiated imaginative play, to a seasonal circle time of songs, verses and movement, to special days for watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, crayon drawing and sewing–and always a time for tidying the room .
Children may help the teacher prepare the mid-morning snack each day with whole organic foods such as rice, carrots, lentils, and oats. Bread, baked every Thursday, is kneaded by small hands and the fragrance from the baking fills the classroom. The needs of allergy-sensitive children are always met with gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free or dairy-free foods.
An hour of outdoor play in the fresh air and under the shade of sheltering oak trees, provides the children with the essential time they need for movement– running, skipping, climbing, digging in the sand box and hauling with wheelbarrows.
The morning ends with a story told by the teacher, the same story being told for several days in a row. As the children sit, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, drinking in these classical tales, their souls are nurtured and in days following these stories appear in their play with one another and with puppet shows that they present.
*For more information on the importance of play in the kindergarten, click the following links:
American Academy of Pediatrics: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development
Dr. David Whitebread’s University of Cambridge research project on academics and play in early childhood