Preschool is for Playing

A version of this was previously posted on my other blog, Not the Typical Mom. I had something else planned for today, but, since my 4 year old starts his playschool program tomorrow, this is all that’s on my mind right now.

Okay, my 4 year old isn’t exactly going to preschool, but he’ll be out of my care for a little over 5.5 hours each week. Which really isn’t a lot, but is more than he’s ever been away from mom and dad. To say I’m scared and nervous is an understatement! But I know it’ll be good for him, so I’m trying to stay upbeat about it so he doesn’t become scared and nervous. (I always imagined I would be excited about my child’s first day of school, not that I would experience first day of school jitters all over again!)

When I was in graduate school for clinical psychology, I was lucky enough to take a highly desired child psychology seminar. Being more of a psychodynamic program, it was a psychodynamic focused class (think Freud), but it was really an amazing and thought-provoking class, especially since I was pregnant with my 4 year old at the time. The class could not have stressed the importance of play during the early years more than it did. I came away from the class thinking I was going to ensure my kids played as much as possible during their toddler years.

Play is important. It allows children to explore themselves and their world. They have the opportunity to re-enact what they see and hear and put the information in such a way that they can understand it. They learn to interact and socialize with other individuals, adults and peers. They learn to navigate the social waters, which also teaches them more about themselves in the context of others.

Knowing this, I knew I was going to send my kids to school. Not that homeschooling deprives children of socialization! I just freak out about the idea of being responsible for my children’s education and really, really, really want to have my own career.

But, back to sending my kids to school. In school, they’ll have the opportunity to interact with their peers and teachers five days a week. They’ll have five days to play and learn and socialize with kids their own age. Of course, I’m afraid of what my kids are going to pick up from them, but have to trust I’ve taught them enough to trust themselves and do what’s right for them.

In California, school isn’t compulsory until first grade. Which means I don’t even have to send my little 4 year old boy to preschool or Kindergarten! But I will. Because I think the socialization is important for him. Besides, he loves playing with his cousins when he sees them, so I know he’ll love making friends and playing with them.

I’m sending my son to a preschool-like program. I’m not entirely happy that it also involves prep for Kindergarten, but I have to hope he gets enough playtime to make it worthwhile.

Preschool is for playing. It’s for learning to navigate themselves and others in various social situations. It’s not for academic learning, but for learning about their social world. And that is why I’m putting him in this program. He can learn many things from us, his family. But I can’t teach him how to navigate making friends and making enemies, how to react to any number of situations, how to take direction from someone other than family members, and how to just be around other people. I can guide him through social situations, but, one day, he’ll have to do it himself, so why not now when the goal is simply to learn through play? It’ll make things fun for him and he’ll learn how to interact with lots of other individuals.

Preschool is for playing. At least, that’s what keeps me saying I want him to go. We’ll see how it actually goes tomorrow when the program starts.

But as long as he gets to play and interact with his peers, I’ll be happy. Not sure I can say the same for him.

4 Comments

  • bitsanddragons

    My older son started the school two weeks ago. Now I see him not any longer playing around, he is more focused, sharper. So far, at the school he only learned to write the letter “M”. In his favour I need to say he knows Hiragana & Katakana better than me, and he can even write most of them, so he’s not exactly illiterate…

    • kat

      That’s fantastic! School really makes an impact, some good and some questionable, but, as parents, all we can do is hope it gives them the tools they need to enjoy learning for the rest of their lives. Also have to hope schools know what they’re doing.

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