Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester is now Spark!

Learning Through Play

Academic vs. Play-Based Education

Educational curricula such as Every Student Succeeds Act, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards have prompted a switch toward more academic-based education for our American youngsters. While these programs may have good intentions, this shift has led to a decrease in designated playtime during school hours. Play has been proven to be integral to the development of social and cognitive skills, so why is time devoted to play diminishing?

Why is There Less Time to Play?

David Whitebread, a psychologist at Cambridge University stated, “Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t achieve anything. But it’s essential to their development. They need to learn to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these things through playing.”

Countries such as Finland and Estonia consistently score higher than the United States in core subjects like math, science, and reading. They also don’t require formal rigorous education until age seven. There’s been no direct evidence that there are long-term positive effects to starting forced academics early, in fact, studies have shown that it may worsen future academic performance. Studies conducted by Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, found that brains of children eight and under are better fitted for learning through exploration than academics.

Play-Based Learning at the Museum

Play positively affects all areas of a child’s development: cognitive, social, and physical. Here at Minnesota Children’s Museum, we believe that play lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Our exhibits are outfitted to promote this kind of playful learning:  Mini Our World allows children to master their creative thinking in our mini reflection of Minnesota life. Kids can practice role-play and become an ant in Earth World and then let their artistic side out in the Rooftop ArtPark. Your Museum experience is bound to be both fun and educational.  Come visit us soon!

Learn more about our play-based learning practices:  the Powers of Play.

Information compiled from “Let the Kids Learn Through Play,” by David Kohn, New York Times.

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