Learning requires children to be courageous, take chances, and explore. Current research on brain development—in particular on the role of curiosity and wonder in young children’s learning—compels us to restructure practice. Surveys show that most early childhood educators request a reduction in academic pressures and more respect for the normal developmental range of abilities in young children. They want less testing, less data, less paperwork, and more time to focus on the individual and unique needs of children. In short, they want more space to implement developmentally appropriate, child-directed learning experiences: the freedom to play. At Gesell, we have been supporting play-based learning across the country for nearly a century.
Unfortunately, due to a shift away from play and towards greater test-oriented direct instruction, classrooms are now reporting an increase in mental health crises and behavioral challenges. In response, the 2023 Connecticut Legislature passed a play-based learning requirement in public preschool and kindergarten classrooms
This new Connecticut legislation requires schools to provide play-based learning for kindergarten and preschool students, and requires boards of education to permit teachers to utilize play-based learning in first through fifth grades.
In this video, we briefly introduce a definition of play that honors a spectrum of play depending on the adult or child’s initiation and direction; we also acknowledge the power of play to build brains and support all essential explicit learning goals for preschool and kindergarten students.
Gesell commends the CT Legislature and all advocates who succeeded in passing this legislation and looks forward to supporting schools in implementing play-based learning for preschool and kindergarten students in Connecticut. We hope other states will follow.
Further Resources on Play: