Academic journal article The Science Teacher

All Work and No Play?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

All Work and No Play?

Article excerpt

Parents and educators who favor traditional classroom-style learning over free, unstructured playtime in preschool and kindergarten may actually be stunting a child's development instead of enhancing it, according to a University of Illinois professor who studies childhood learning and literacy development.

Anne Haas Dyson, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, says playtime for children is a "fundamental avenue" for learning, and attempts by parents and educators to create gifted children by bombarding them with information is well-intentioned but ultimately counterproductive.

"That approach does not appreciate the role of play and imagination in a child's intellectual development," Dyson says. "Play is where children discover ideas, experiences, and concepts and think about them and their consequences. This is where literacy and learning really begins."

What Dyson calls the "banning of the imagination" in schools may be influenced by what some critics have called the "Baby Genius Edutainment Complex," a cottage industry of mind-enrichment products developed specifically for infants and toddlers and marketed to anxious parents eager to give their children's cognitive abilities an early boost.

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"I see this 'Einstein in the crib' trend as a societal reduction of children to the means for fulfilling parents' desires for intellectual distinction," Dyson says. …

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