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Play is the Work of Childhood

Exploring, solving problems, taking risks, engaging the imagination - play has it all. We know the fun and games of childhood play are rich in opportunities that help to build important life skills and help to support social, emotional, and cognitive development beyond measure. One peek into Camellia’s preschool and kindergarten and you will see play in motion - children engaging their imaginations, through creative play. Whether outdoors or indoors, playtime provides children with opportunities that allow them to capture the world around them, through all of their senses, helping them to make sense of the world they live in.

Why Imaginative Play is Important

As children grow and change, their play changes too. Beginning at around age 2.5 years, just after children begin preschool, their play shifts from one of reality-based, cause and effect, to one that is rooted in fantasy. At this same time, children’s capacity for thinking emerges. Camellia’s early childhood teachers take great care in developing beautiful spaces, rich in possibilities, for children’s fantasy and thinking life to partner and thrive. When these two faculties are given ample time and space to come together, they merge, eventually developing into creative thinking, a capacity that helps children see how things are and how they could be.

Simple play materials can be found throughout Camellia’s preschool and kindergarten - wooden blocks, silk cloths, tree stumps, sticks, and jump ropes, all of which can be transformed into anything children can imagine, with no limitations. For example, a simple wooden block can be a truck or train, or many blocks can be transformed into a home or castle. Young children are naturally curious, and play builds on this natural curiosity, helping them to better understand how things work, while at the same time, building skills that will grow with them.

Play Builds Skills

For years, studies have shown that play helps children develop the cognitive and social-emotional skills crucial to long-term school success in academics and beyond. Critical thinking is a great example of this, as it is born through rich, imaginative play, and it serves children in their academic development and throughout adulthood. However, the ability to think critically, creatively, or to persevere and be flexible, are not innate, they need to be developed. Cultivating such capacities does not come through conventional math worksheets or reading exercises, but through problem-solving activities that are natural to play.

Imaginative play is also beneficial in developing language skills. As children play, they often create dialogue as they act out different scenarios, which helps them develop linguistic and conversational skills, both of which will serve them both in future social and academic settings. Even when playing alone, play is filled with opportunities for expressive language growth and development.

Falling in Love with Learning

The play-based learning that is brought in Camellia’s preschool and kindergarten programs helps children to fall in love with learning, through discovery and joy. An education rich in play meets young children in the most perfect way as it is developmentally appropriate, it comes with ease. These first years of school not only build a foundation, but they set the tone for the grade school years and beyond. By bringing the right thing at the right time, children come to school excited, ready to engage and participate. When school is joyful, it grows into a second home, where they have a class family. The ease of transitions from one activity to the next, combined with the strong emphasis on rhythm, help to create an environment of safety and trust.

"Play is our brain's favorite way of learning."

— Diane Ackerman, American poet, author, naturalist

As part of Camellia’s play-based curriculum in early childhood, teachers bring crafts, verses, stories, and songs, all reflective of the seasons of the year. This helps children to connect what they are doing in school with what they are seeing in the world around them. For example, when children begin school in September, they feel the crisp mornings and shorter days of autumn. The beautiful trees that surround them are dropping leaves of gold, and stories of bravery and courage are brought. Together in this language-rich environment, teachers lead children in crafting handmade lanterns, and later have an evening walk with families, with children carrying the bright light they helped to create, as they sing a song of warmth and light. These symbolic, hands-on experiences help children to develop in a holistic way, allowing them further opportunities to connect with the greater world, and form relationships with the earth and peers.

Social Emotional Development through Play

Learning through play in an environment that is nurturing, warm and unhurried, helps children relax, and form deep and meaningful relationships. In this intentional and loving environment, children have time and space to connect, collaborate, negotiate, and work through conflict. The world needs more empathetic and compassionate humans, and when children dive into fantasy play, they have the chance to become anyone they want - a dog, cat, firefighter, veterinarian, or fairy, the possibilities are truly endless. These moments of present play allow them to walk in the shoes of another, helping children to see how their actions affect others and experience how other people may feel in different situations.

Play involves a lot of trial and error. When the tower of blocks falls, the tea cup spills or the sand castle is washed away by the rain, children experience disappointment. It is through these moments that children learn to push through for future successes and in turn build resilience.

What may look like fun and games to adults, is truly the work of childhood. Curiosity, joy, discovery, delight, we invite you to learn more about all of it! Camellia’s play-based preschool and kindergarten both offer programs that meet children developmentally, helping to build a foundation that will serve their academic development in the years to come. We invite you to learn more by scheduling a tour or reaching out to our admissions coordinator,

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” - Carl Jung, Swiss psychoanalyst 1875–1961


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