The story appears on

Page B3

November 29, 2022

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Education

The importance of letting children play

As a school counselor, I often contemplate the appropriate balance between play, extracurricular activities and academics for our students. All these forms of enrichment build self-confidence and provide our children with the essential skills and pleasure that they need to be happy and to create a balanced child.    

Academic enrichment opportunities are vital for our children. A solid education prepares students for a successful adulthood and a fruitful future in the job market. While academics and extracurricular activities are, without a doubt, essential in a child’s education, research shows that play is also extremely important to a child’s human development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children.    

Despite the benefits for children, time for free play has been diminished over the years. Higher academic expectations, rigorous daily routines and enrichment activities may create challenges for young students to find time to play, relax and engage in their own introspective creativity. Parents and educators should seek ways in which to strike a happy medium in children’s lives to create the optimal balance between academic, social, personal and play time.     

At Concordia International School Shanghai, our early childhood and elementary educators are advocates for real, true, meaningful play. Play allows students to use their creativity while developing their imagination, physical, cognitive and emotional vigor. Furthermore, play is important to a healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.  

Continual academic progress and participation in organized activities demonstrate a student’s healthy development at school. Yet, among young learners, play should also be an integral part of the learning environment. It has been shown to help students adjust to the school setting and even to enhance students’ learning readiness, learning behaviors, and it helps form friendships and problem-solving skills.

Making time for play  

Many factors have contributed to changes in childhood routines and decreased free play for children, including the perceived need to provide children with every advantage for academic success.   

Parents want the very best for their child’s education and future, and they understand that expectations are extremely high when aiming for the world’s top universities. As the college admissions process has become much more competitive over the years, many parents are compelled to prepare their children for a successful education as early as possible. Admission to top-tier private and international schools is front of mind for many parents, and the pressure to lay the foundations for their child’s academic careers may start before the child has even reached school age.   

Once in school, children are often encouraged to pursue additional academic rigor in the form of extracurricular activities and tutoring. While such activities may benefit a student’s academic performance, they should not be taken on at the expense of a child’s ability to explore their creativity and imagination through play.   

Too much screen time has also decreased free play among children. While it is essential for children to know how to use technology, spending too much time in front of an iPad or computer minimizes the amount of time kids spend interacting with others or engaging in meaningful play.

Communicating through play

Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” This statement certainly rings true as play involves a vital social drive and is the language that children speak and how they often make friends and socialize. Free play isn’t just something students like to do, it’s something they need to do. Play teaches them how to work together and at the same time, how to be alone. It teaches them how to be authentic, creative and imaginative, and work with others.     

Additionally, play offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children and join in the fun.  Nothing is as natural as a child at play. Communicating through play with peers, and parents joining their children in games and free play, are all essential in cultivating the emotional well-being of our students. Play should also be scheduled into a student’s day; thus, students have time to relax, unwind, imagine and just be a kid.   

By adopting a research-based and holistic approach to teaching and learning, Concordia provides developmentally appropriate play for young learners. During times of outdoor learning and recesses, our kids find opportunities for high-quality play that invites learning and exploration of skills that will stay with them as they continue their learning adventures.   

All our students’ activities are critical in fostering their self-esteem and academic success and if play time can be incorporated into a child’s daily routine with other very important hobbies, interests, and activities, I do believe our students will be happier, more grounded, and more successful as they grow and advance through school.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend