The Importance of Learning Through Play

Ellie Malesiewski, Photographer

The education system in America needs dramatic change. Schools tend to be so focused on assessment and grades for children. Although this is an effective way to measure the information absorbed by children, there are so many other ways of learning for children that are crucial to their social and cognitive development.  

Some children also do not learn best by reading or writing. Often children need to go out into the world around them and do hands-on activities in order to efficiently learn new skills and information. Longer time on task does not equate to better results, only greater burnout. 

Another issue is schools tend to give a negative reaction to a child scoring low on an assessment or test. This does not encourage hard work or learning. I feel as though schools doing this results in creating people who are workers who obey what they are told, and not free thinkers, which the world could use a lot more of.  

When children go outside and absorb the world around them and figure things out on their own, it can be one of the most influential parts of their childhood development.  

Personally, I was one of those children who could not effectively learn through assessment and book material. I always wanted to go out and do something outside or do a hands-on project in class. I took in the information so much better, and I was able to retain it as well. Memorizing information to pass a test is not learning and is usually forgotten after the assessment is completed.  

I am in school to hopefully become an elementary school teacher as well as a special education teacher. I want to be in this profession because I struggled throughout grade school, and I hope to make a difference in a child’s life and be the person who encourages them to do what they love and always try their best. I wish I had a teacher like this growing up. I also hope to remind children that each human is different, and it is more than okay to have opposing strengths and weaknesses as their peers.  

Taking into consideration the different learning disabilities children have is so important as well. For example, I grew up with ADHD and it was not until my junior year of high school that a teacher took this seriously and gave me the support and resources I needed. 

I think reading and writing are crucial life skills, but I do not think everything children do in school should revolve around them.  

Other countries have this figured out. In Asia, schools typically give children a 10-minute break for every 30 minutes spent on instruction and learning new material. In Finland, students take a 15-minute break for outdoor play after every 45 minutes of classroom time.  

When children have time to play with their classmates and peers, they can form social skills, learn how to deal with emotions, see and experience nature, and learn their own likes and dislikes, among many more things that can be gained from play. 

When children are doing work all day with hardly an hour break for lunch and recess, they can get bored, frustrated, and start to have a cloudy mind, which is detrimental to learning. Taking more time to play or have free time can benefit a child’s mental health and is a way for them to set aside their stress and just relax. 

I think the education system in America is very flawed and needs reform. It should cater to a child’s needs rather than how much information they can retain. If a child is overall healthy and happy, there is a much higher chance that they will be more excited to learn and try new things, resulting in more success and kindness in the world.  

Children spend their time in school. Since they are in their most developmental stages during childhood, schools should be doing more to teach them important things such as following your heart and treating others with respect and kindness.  

As though bullying is also a result of the flawed education system because schools are conditioning children to act and think in the same way. Therefore, when a child seems to be “different than normal,” they get made fun of or left out because they are considered strange or weird.  

Children should be encouraged to always be themselves and stand up for what they believe in. Since they are so young and their minds are still developing, this will stick with them for life. Schools are conditioning them for the opposite. 


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