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Play to Learn

A local expert's favorite early learning method

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“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

The speaker of this quote? No less an expert in all things kid-dom than Mr. Rogers, whose TV neighborhood was a bastion of the play to learn educational approach touted by local
educator and author Roberta Michnick Golinkoff.  

“Think about what you want your kids to be when they grow up,” Golinkoff urges. “You want them to be good communicators, to get along with others, to be social, to persevere, to create new things. All of these [attributes] start in the sandbox.”

What is play to learn?

Golinkoff, the H. Rodney Sharp Professor at the University of Delaware’s School of Education, has written nine books about early education with Temple University fellow and Infant Lab director Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn — And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less tackles the play to learn question head-on.

According to the pair, play-based learning (often called child-centric) has become overshadowed by academic “kill-and-drill” or teacher-directed methods because parents began to worry that their kids would not be competitive in school, college and eventually the job market if they weren’t as accomplished as their peers.

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