“Pulling the grass does not make it grow faster”
– African proverb.
In the Wild.Kind. Compassionate Playschool, free play is one of the key elements and we hope to ensure free space to the children which they need in order to develop into happy and resilient beings equipped with a rucksack full of social, cognitive and emotional skills – ready to discover the world.
In this short piece we provide you with some of the reasoning behind our philosophy of allowing children to be children, and to learn valuable social skills through play.
The obsession with optimization and early learning throughout childhood cannot be overlooked in today’s performance-driven society. Even the very smallest members are exposed to massive stress due to full schedules. Interestingly, not one study could yet prove that early reading or mathematics instruction, or the weekly course in Babysignlanguage or Babyenglish, lead to language or mathematician geniuses or outstanding scholars later in life.
Children who have been exposed to early learning classes might have a head start compared to the other children but countless studies show that this advantage wears off pretty quickly. The intense preparation, the pressure and the excessive expectations towards the children lead to those same children tending more frequently to later performance anxiety, motivational problems, difficulties in bonding with peers of same age or even to depression.
“Fact is that intelligence grows through freedom, and numerous studies prove that children mostly need this freedom and enough time to engage with themselves and other children in a playful way” says Prof. Dr. Stamm. Playing is a central development-motor as the educationalists emphasize. But parents are made to believe that they have to prepare their children for the global academic competition, and this as early as possible. Specialists all over the globe consider the obsession with early learning in childhood as harmful for the development of the children.
“Children actually need love, and parents that are present and empathetic. They need other kids and adults and an environment in which they can actively get engaged” so the experts say.
“Parents should not forget that the social environment is a much stronger determiner for brain development than any academic training” so Prof. Dr. Zimpel. Children learn nearly everything through play. It leads to a healthy development in all crucial areas (cognitive, emotional, social, creative and motoric) and serves as a first tool with which children can process their interests, fears, deceptions and concerns.
So does beginning the learning of mathematics, reading, writing and science a couple of years later have a negative impact on children’s development and their likelihood to fulfil their potential? We will let you build your own opinion… But perhaps a look at Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin, the youngest ever in the world at age 34, where children start school later than in most other developed countries, says it all.
Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2019). Lasst die Kinder los. München: Piper Verlag GmbH.
Prof. Dr. phil. Andrea Lanfranchi (2014). Frühförderung mit Risiken und Nebenwirkungen. Kleinkinder im Stress. Aargauer Zeitung.
Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2014). Frühförderung als Kinderspiel. Ein Plädoyer für das Recht der Kinder auf das freie Spiel. Dossier 14/5. Swiss Education Bern.
Prof. Dr. André Zimpel (2013, 3. Aufl., 2012, 2. Aufl., 2011, 1. Aufl.): Lasst unsere Kinder spielen! Der Schlüssel zum Erfolg. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2012). Zeitungsartikel: Überförderte Kinder: Lieb und teuer. Bilanz.
Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm is Prof. emeritus for Educational Psychology and Educational Sciences at the University of Fribourg, founder of the University Center of Early Childhood Development in Fribourg and currently Director of the Swiss Education Research Institute.
Prof. Dr. phil. Andrea Lanfranchi is a former schoolmaster, Child Psychologist and special needs Therapist, University lecturer and Director of the Nationalfonds-Study „Förderung ab Geburt: ZEPPELIN 0-3“.
Prof. Dr. André Zimpel is Professor for Educational Sciences at the University of Hamburg with focus on intellectual development and (special needs) education as well as neurodiversity and neuropsychology, anthropology, play theory and learning difficulties. Furthermore he is Psychologist and Psychotherapist.