All that my child does in school is play!

As a parent or caregiver of a young learner, have you ever voiced that thought? Have you ever asked yourself what your child is learning in school? If you have, you are not alone.

However, play is a universal language of childhood. It’s not just fun and games; it’s a powerful tool for learning and development. Early childhood educational programs that prioritize play — like ours at Morgan Park Academy — lay the foundation for a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and creative growth.

Children learn best through hands-on, active learning experiences. Let’s take a look at some examples of play in an early childhood classroom and why it’s so important.

Play is a natural way for children to explore the world around them. Whether it’s building with blocks, solving puzzles, or engaging in imaginative play, children are constantly learning. For example, building with blocks teaches children about balance and gravity and mathematical concepts such as measurement and quantity, while imaginative play fosters creativity and thinking outside the box. Solving puzzles stimulates cognitive problem solving, spatial awareness, and concepts such as shape and number recognition and sorting into similar groups.

Play provides opportunities for children to develop social and emotional skills. In group play at a center like the kitchen area, children learn how to take turns, share, and verbally communicate with their peers. They develop empathy, as they take on various roles and perspectives during imaginative play scenarios at the doll house and with puppets.

Play fosters language acquisition and communication skills. Whether it’s talking to dolls, giving instructions during a game, or narrating a story, children are constantly using and expanding their vocabulary. This is setting the foundation for strong literacy skills in kindergarten and beyond.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of play in early childhood education is that it instills a love for learning. When children are engaged in activities they find enjoyable and exciting, they are more likely to be motivated to explore and discover new things. Play encourages a growth mindset, where children embrace challenges and view mistakes as opportunities to learn.

These types of play not only prepare children for the primary grades, but for life itself. And, the students are having fun!

So, the next time your child comes home and says, “I played all day,” embrace these play experiences, foster them at home, and celebrate how your child is learning and growing at school.

By Kari Misulonas ’82

Ms. Misulonas is our interim principal for PreK through grade 3.