Recent child development research indicates that academic preschool may be harming children’s ability to think creatively. This research supports play-based early learning like the El Cerrito Preschool Cooperative has offered for decades. The article below discusses cutting-edge studies about why child-led play actually supports long-term learning.
Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they’re reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law — the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.
There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn’t very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity — abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition — one from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley — suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.