Play. It is essential to development. I have become passionate about the importance of play in Kindergarten. I am in the middle of a course for grad school where I am evaluating research on the importance of it. There is so much information out there on both sides of the issue.
Currently, there is so little time for free and unstructured play at school. Play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. It is essential to their brain development. While trying to meet the demands of a rigorous curriculum, and with so many goals and standards that must be met, these young kids are losing out. Instead of easels and sand tables, we have math and literacy centers. Instead of drawing, art and creation stations, five year olds are writing opinion pieces. There needs to be a middle point, where students are learning in developmentally appropriate ways. They need to be exploring, moving and socializing. Learning through play provides opportunities to build number sense, vocabulary and phonemic awareness.
Children should not be anxious in Kindergarten but when we put this much pressure on them to succeed academically we are not helping them. The social and emotional foundations they learn in kindergarten are what will help them succeed as learners. As one of my coworkers often remarks, most of these babies were in diapers just a few years ago! They develop at such different rates when they are this young. Just like no child is potty trained or learns to walk at the same time, no child will be ready to read at the same time either. It is time to find a way to balance the rigor and the play with achievable and developmentally appropriate goals.