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How Learning Centers Naturally Inspire Learning Through Play

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Public pre-k programs continue to face the pressure of “push down academics” and an increase in didactic teaching. Yet researchers continue to find that play is the best way for children to learn. Dr. Jean Feldman—coauthor of The Possibilities of Play: Imaginative Learning Centers for Children Ages 3-6—shares how thoughtfully planned learning centers naturally inspire hands-on discovery, critical thinking, and rich learning in children.


I like you, there's no doubt about it

I like you, there's no doubt about it

I like you, there's no doubt about it 

You are my good friends 

And I do like you, and I do like children, and that's why after over 50 years as an early childhood educator, I'm still doing what I'm doing. Because you know what? The world has changed dramatically since I started teaching in 1969—but children are the same! They want to be loved. They want to play and have fun with their friends, and they want to feel good about themselves. They want to feel competent and capable. 

And to me, that is the beauty of learning centers. Children can play and have fun with their friends! They can all feel good about themselves as they explore and discover and learn in their own unique ways. 

When you think about all the great men and women throughout the centuries all over the world, and you think about how they've contributed to our world, and how did they get started? They didn't get started with worksheets and with computers. No— they played! That is a natural way for children to learn.

I remember several years ago when I was invited to do a workshop, one of the administrators at that district said, “I don't want any of that singing and dancing and playing and holding hands!” Well guess what? That is exactly what children need right now! After that pandemic, they need to play and use their senses and have fun.

One of my friends who teaches pre-K said it surprised her when her children came back in March in person, that they had forgotten how to play and have conversations with their friends. That's a powerful thing that we need to think about. 

Teachers teach, that's what teachers do. Children learn, that's what they do. And when teachers set up learning centers that are inviting and have different materials, then children can come and learn. One of my favorite professors used to say, “If you want to catch a rabbit, you have to have a rabbit trap!” And you know what, that's what the book that Carolyn Kisloski and I wrote is all about—The Possibilities of Play. It's about creating rabbit traps through learning centers, where your children will want to come and learn and discover and interact with their friends! 

Take care. God bless.

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