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In the CIS Early Childhood Education Program, play is serious business

Canadian International School of Guangzhou 2022-05-13

What are your memories of playing as a child? Some of us will remember hide and seek, house or tag. Others may recall arguing about rules in ball games, taking turns at jump rope or hopscotch, creating imaginary worlds with our dolls, building human forts or dressing up in Mom’s high heels. In fact, many of us were born in a generation where apples and blackberries were still just fruits and where androids were actually robots with human appearances.


But, what about your children? Are their opportunities for play the same as yours were? Most likely not. Playtime, as it appears these days, is in short supply for children, even though the lifelong benefits it garners can be more valuable than many parents often realize.

PLAY is a WAY for Brain Development

Scientists and educators who study and observe play in action have reached a consensus that recreational activities are more than a way for restless children to work off steam; more than a method for children to burn off calories; more than a frivolous luxury. Play, in their expert view, is a central part of neurological growth and development – one important way that children build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains. They believe that a true sense of interpersonal nuance can be achieved only by a child who is engaging all five senses by playing in the three-dimensional world.


Play Encourages Exploration at a Low Risk Level

One popular reason why indulging in youthful escapades is regarded as essential is the play-as-preparation premise. In this theory, play evolved because it is good training for adulthood. It is a chance for young ones to learn and rehearse the skills they will need for the rest of their lives in a secure environment, where mistakes will have few consequences. 

Proponents of this hypothesis say play is a way – and, not incidentally, a pleasurable way – of gaining muscle memory of the generalized movements of survival, such as chasing, running, probing and tussling. Through play, these movements can be learned when the stakes are low and then retrieved in adulthood, when the setting is less safe and the need more urgent. The play-as-preparation hypothesis seems logical, and each new observation appears to confirm the imitation of our big, real world. Watch 2-year-olds playing at a toy workbench with little wooden mallets and blocks and you can picture them as adults employing those same motions to wield a full-size hammer.


CIS' Play-based Learning Approach

In the CIS Early Childhood Education Program, play is the lifeblood of the learning process, whether its open-ended art, cut-and-color discovery, music and movement, sensory activities with sand, water or bubbles. We understand that preschool/kindergarten years are a time when children develop confidence, more effective control over their emotions, new social skills, the foundations of morality and a clear sense of themselves as a boy or girl. The real business of early childhood educational insights, therefore, is as clear cut and simple as it can be: idle, creative, unstructured free play, just the way we do it here at CIS.


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