Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 5 - Free Play

Providing young children with ample opportunity for exploring the world and using their senses may be a key component of the preschool years, but along with that comes the  need for free play.

Certainly, as mentioned in the previous post, children benefit from some guidance as they explore the world, some assistance in learning to use their senses, but just a little.
“The notion of supplementing Nature from the cradle is a dangerous one. A little guiding, a little restraining, much reverent watching, Nature asks of us; but beyond that, it is the wisdom of parents to leave children as much as may be to Nature, and "to a higher Power than Nature itself."”

Charlotte Mason believed children must be fairly free to do as they choose during these years.
“Nature will look after him and give him promptings of desire to know many things; and somebody must tell as he wants to know; and to do many things, and somebody should be handy just to put him in the way; and to be many things, naughty and good, and somebody should give direction.”

Modern research confirms this as the "wisest course" because young children will find what they need for their proper stage of development on their own.
“Many studies support the notion that brains--and the organisms attached to them--tend to gravitate to the types of stimulation that they need at different stages of development.  If we encourage children to make choices from a selected variety of available challenges, both environmental and intellectual, we are no doubt following the wisest course.”
Jane Healy Endangered Minds p. 72

The children have to do the learning themselves.
“Children need stimulation and intellectual challenges, but they must be actively involved in their learning, not responding passively while another brain--their teacher’s or parent’s--laboriously develops new synapses in their behalf!”
Healy p. 73
“Knowing this, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.”
Structured activities, as documented in a previous post in this series, negatively impact future learning.  Less structure has positive effects.
"The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning."
Jane E. Barker, Andrei D. Semenov, Laura Michaelson, Lindsay S. Provan, Hannah R. Snyder and Yuko Munakata ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE Frontiers in Psychology

"Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions."
David Whitebread "School starting age: the evidence" University of Cambridge Research

"Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development."
David Whitebread "School starting age: the evidence" University of Cambridge Research

Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)

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