Play is not a four letter word


The pressure is on!  In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world, parents want to give their young children an edge on learning.  Parents struggle to turn out children that no college can refuse and no employer can let go.  Is it any wonder then, that the baby-educating toy category is now a one-billion-dollar-a-year-business?  According to one recent survey, 65% of parents believe that flash cards are “very effective” in helping 2-year-olds develop their intellectual capacity.  So moms and dads drill their little ones with “Baby Webster” vocabulary cards, then take a break by popping in a “Baby Einstein” videotape.
The irony is that 30 years of accumulated scientific knowledge have taught us that faster is not better.  Yet the crisis continues as young children are pushed to achieve and produce in ways that are antithetical to how children learn best.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, developmental psychologists who specialize in how children learn, and mothers who have felt the pressure themselves, urge parents and educators to address this crisis and help their children become life-long learners. In their groundbreaking book, EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASHCARDS:  How Our Children REALLY Learn – and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less, they liberate caring adults from the cult of achievement and present a better way to grow smart kids.

Research overwhelmingly shows that a child’s intellectual awakening takes place during the normal adult-child interactions that occur in everyday, purposeful activities.  “Parents easily foster self-confident learners through activities that gently challenge children to reach the edge of their developmental level, but not beyond,” Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff assure. 

“Playful environments and spontaneous learning opportunities hold the keys for a happy, emotionally healthy, and intelligent child—and for a fulfilled parent.”  Parents and teachers need to be guides in helping children learn in a meaningful way that incorporates play.  They also need to recognize their critical role in helping children gain emotional intelligence, which is just as important as IQ for success in life.

When children play with blocks or divide their share of candy with a friend, they are learning the foundation for mathematics.  When children “put on a show” for their parents using a story they heard at preschool, they are practicing skills that are the foundations for language and reading.  When parents make it safe for children to talk about their feelings, they give them the building blocks for emotional health.

When asked what she thought about the Tiger Mom approach, Dr Golinkoff stressed: It’s not all about achievement. It’s about social skills too which are crucial for success in today’s economy where international boundaries are melting away. She got some things right and some things wrong. Parenting takes a lot of time but belittling your kids is not supported in any way.”

CHECK OUT our 10 fun ways to help your child learn naturally…