A Place of Our Own
About the Series Feedback Glossary Search Go Español
Home Topics Activities Resources Episode Guide Active Learning
The Power of Play (I)

Dear Debi,
When I drop off and pick up my 4 year-old daughter from child care, it always looks like she’s just playing. Should I put her in a more structured environment to make sure she’s learning what she needs for kindergarten?
Barbara , Apple Valley, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Play is how children naturally learn and it is as important to children’s development as eating and sleeping.
  • Play stimulates brain growth in children at the most critical time in their development.
  • Play lays down the foundation for later learning.
Expert Advice
Jennifer Montgomery Bell
Jennifer Montgomery Bell
Early Childhood Education Instructor, El Camino College
Parents shouldn’t be concerned at all. Play is how children naturally learn, it’s as important as eating and sleeping.

When children are playing they not only learn fundamental concepts that are the basis for later academic learning, but they’re also learning social skills.

The philosophy behind the first child care center that I worked at was that children learn through play. Every experience for them was a learning experience.

We still had parents say, “but it looks as if they are just playing all day.” Well they are; by playing, children are stimulating brain development as well as building a foundation for later learning.

Building with blocks, for example, is a math experience as much as it helps them develop concepts of shape, size, length and location. And with art, when they’re mixing colors, they’re learning hand-eye coordination and exercising their imagination and creativity.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 5 years
I had a parent who would always come into the child care and ask me why we didn’t have “serious” projects every day. She thought we weren’t giving her 3-year old the proper education. We tried to assure her that at that age, children learn through play, but she eventually left our program.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
Some parents only remember doing lesson plans when they were kids and think that their children should do the same. I have a parent of a 3-year old, for example, who is constantly asking me to teach her child her ABC’s. I don’t tell her that it is totally inappropriate to do so at such an early age, but when I do go over ABC exercises with the child, I do so with puzzles. So basically, the child is still playing, playing and learning.
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
I’ve had quite a few parents say, “but they’re always playing!” At that age even if they’re outside bouncing a ball, children are learning. They’re learning to count, learning about shapes and colors. They’re realizing that their bodies are developing, and most importantly, that they are slowly learning about concepts.

Prop Box Featured Activity:
Prop Box
The Power of Dramatic Play Featured Video:
The Power of Dramatic Play
Topic: Play & Creativity
View Index
Learn More
View All Topics
Message Boards
Related Episodes
Cross-Over Play
Math Activities
Importance of Art Activities
The Importance of Blocks
Rough and Tumble Play
The Importance of Outdoor Play
Favorite Activities (2)
Dramatic Play & Imagination
Appropriate Play Materials
Family Games & Week in Review
Playing to Learn
Family Games & Week in Review
California Child Care Health Program and the Child Care Healthline
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
KidsHealth - Power Play
PBS / The Whole Child / Toys & Play Equipment
PTA & The Importance of Play
The American Association for the Child's Right to Play
PBS Kids
PBS Teacher Source
Teacher QuickSource
© 2007 Community Television of Southern California. All rights reserved.