“Play is the highest expression of human development, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul” Friedrich Froebel – The inventor of kindergarten (LeBlanc, 2006)
Young children learn differently from adults. Adults learn through memorizing, reading, and writing. Children learn so naturally – through playing (Sarama & Clements, 2006). Some researches (LeBlanc, 2006; Schroeder, 2007; Stegelin, 2005) agree that play is the best way for children to learn. Without enough time to play, children will get stress (Schroeder, 2007). Schipani (2007) argues that ‘child’s brain receives important nutrients when he is active, and when kids are involved in free play, they have the opportunity to develop valuable social skills’. Through the context of play, young children can develop their literacy (Einarsdottir, 1996) and play is very important because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth (Ginsburg, 2007). Stegelin (2005) summarises that active play contributes into positive outcomes such as reducing levels of obesity, heart-related problems and chronic stress, optimizing cognitive development, enhancing language and early literacy development, and developing their social competence.
Though children could memorise academic concept really strongly, separating children from play will lead into other problems. Moreover, there is not any significant correlation between children development and formal instruction (Schroeder, 2007). Jacobson (2005), reporting a research done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, concludes that advantages children acquire by being involved with academic activities such as mathematics, vocabulary, and memory skills in childcare and kindergarten appear to remain at least through 3rd grade before they, then, suffers from other social problems. The problems varied from mother-child conflicts, bad behaviour at school, aggressive, disobedient to even poor work habits at school.
History has told us that genius people did not start their smartness since they were young. Some of them, even, were blamed to be idiot in their early age. ‘Albert Einstein, probably the most well-known scientist in 20th century, did not talk until the age of three but even as a youth he showed a brilliant curiosity about nature and an ability to understand difficult mathematical concepts’ (Encarta, 2007).
This might be an indicator that children start learning something when they are ready to do so. Parents, teachers and other adults do not have any privilege to force them learning in a particular way. What they need to do is facilitating children to learn based on their development stages. Their smartness in early age does not guarantee they will become an expert when they grow. Vice versa, although young children could not read or do mathematics questions, it does not mean they will face worse future.
Dedy Gunawan, M.Ed candidate of Flinders University of South Australia