Play is NOT an option -- it is Fundamental

What? Your Kindergartener can't read? Your two year old doesn't know 100 signs and say his numbers in Spanish? G...A....S...P!!! And you call yourself an educator. SHAME, GASP AGAIN, AND ANOTHER SHAME!!

Any other parents out there feeling the pressure of making sure your sweet little ones are "fully prepared" to enter the world of school long before it's even time? Well, I certainly feel the pressure at times, and I know better.

I know that kids will read when they're ready. I know that kids ARE readers if they are looking at pictures and making up their own stories. I've studied and kept current on emergent literacy since the year 2000. I know that it's less important for kids to study an isolated letter a week than it is for them to PLAY!!

Our kids are being robbed of their childhood by ALL school systems (public, private and home...yep, I even said private and home) and I have something to say about it. Shocker, I know.

Let your kids be kids. Let them dress up. Let them wear ugly make up and stinky perfume. Let them spill their snack all over the kitchen. Let them splash in the mud and make mud pies. Let them sing songs while they swing in the back yard. Let them take pictures of stick bugs. Let them dance in the rain. Let them paint their arms and legs with washable markers. Let them paint their brother with washable markers. Let them PLAY.

The best way to become five is to first be four.

For heaven's sakes don't rush your kids into the pretentious world WE live in. They could care less if they are Tier 3 on their iStation report for school. Whatever the heck that even means.

Our kids need A LOT of uninterrupted play in their day. In fact, it takes them about 40 minutes to establish themselves in play. To get all the materials ready, to make a plan and to enact their plan. 40 minutes before they are ready to go with this whole play thing they've been dreaming up in their fairy tale unicorn and superhero land.

This time allowance should be happening in prekindergarten and Kindergarten programs, but it's not. "There's not enough time in the day for that kind of play." "There's too much content to cover." The demands are trickling down. Our kids are being forced into learning that is not developmentally appropriate.

It's not appropriate for ALL five year olds to be reading . I'm not saying this just because I happen to have a five year old who isn't reading. I'm saying this because it is research based and even the most educated educators ignore it.

I have felt the judgment when people ask me if Haelyn can read. "No, she can't read the way you are thinking but she CAN read," I say. That is usually followed by a judgmental snort or some condescending comment. I was actually starting to doubt my knowledge of children and the stages of their cognitive, social, and emotional development until I talked with Haelyn's teacher.

She happens to be THE best Kindergarten teacher in America. I would say I'm biased but all kids that have passed through Mrs. R's room feel the very same way. She even helped an Early Childhood Instructor at a nearby university (that would be me) feel better about where her kid was in comparison to where the system wants her to be. She eased my angst in so many ways.

She told me it was important for Haelyn to love school and to love learning. She told me she is doing great. She told me she was a gifted artist. She told me she will catch up. She told me she was not one bit worried. She gave me permission to stop worrying. Whew, because who wants to breed a kid who hates school at age five?

So what do we do? Do we toss out all educational experiences and leave our kids grunting and pointing like Bam Bam? Let's not go stone age, but we must remember to let our kids be four before they are five.

Play is so very important. Embed learning into play and vice versa. Let your kids make their own meaning and find a joy for learning as they play. Facilitate their play and learning with materials that are open ended, educational and FUN!!!

Take your kids on day trips or nature walks. Lay out in the grass and stare at the sky. Give them a cardboard box to destroy into a a boat or rocket ship. Stop yourself from buying a coloring book and buy big blank chart paper. Grab a glass jar and catch a creepy spider. Let them learn right next to you. Most of all...let them play.