Just today I visited my daughters’ soon to be school (she will start in two months) and was stuck by a chart out there. I cant remember the exact words, but it said something like Trust me I was not made to sit still and listen to someone, I need to engage with the world with all my body and trust me I am learning. SO let me play.
I really appreciate the sentiments of the school, because trust me some parents concerns about how kindergarten children are performing in school and what they have learnt is quite disconcerting. Today morning, within the school itself I heard two parents swap notes on whether the child was identifying fruits, vegetables and colors. I mean why does it even matter.
But when I thought of play, I started wondering about how we have ended up instrumentalizing even play for a larger learning agenda. Any toy shop you go to, toys come labelled with what skills they help the child develop. I know children are supposed to learn while playing, but can we actually sort of not think about the learning all the time while playing. John Holt says it is dishonest to think of teaching the child while playing, because play must always have its inherent value, and an adult cannot impose a larger learning agenda and rob the child’s right to play. I am paraphrasing, but that is pretty much what he meant. When I read it, I thought he was overreacting and there is nothing wrong with us using play as a learning tool. But now when I see schools go out of their way to emphasize that we teach through playing and parents continue to swap stories about how well their three year old can identify fruits and vegetables, I really wonder.