Play Is Serious Work

Visit New City School on any given day and you may discover the room peppered with small groups of children. One group of four-year-olds is hovering around the “sensory table,” playing in the dirt and what was last week’s pinto beans, which have sprouted into plants. Another group is at the playdough table making caterpillars; others may be playing in shaving cream on the red table, “drawing.” Are they just playing?

Miss Liz moves around the room reminding children to “use their words” when the playdough tool is taken or asking the students open-ended questions at the sensory table: “What do you see when you look carefully at these plants?” Or asking Lena to draw the letter “L” in the shaving cream. Are they learning or playing?

When New York City launched its large preschool program in 2014, Shael Polakow-Suransky* noted, “While grown-ups recognize that pretending helps children find their way into the world, many adults think of play as separate from formal learning. The reality is quite different. As they play, children develop vital cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional skills. They make discoveries, build knowledge, experiment with literacy and math and learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways. Play is also fun and interesting, which makes school a place where children look forward to spending their time. It is so deeply formative for children that it must be at the core of our early childhood curriculum.”

In that same NY Times Op-Ed piece, Ms. Polakow-Suransky goes on to say, “Play has long-lasting benefits. What is referred to as self-regulation in preschool becomes resiliency in high school.”

New City School is investing in children like Lena, Jamari, and Clay to establish the building blocks for a long and prosperous life. We believe in the value of a high-quality early education of both mind and soul. Our Christ-centered classroom and faith-based curriculum not only provide a foundation for success in education but for life itself, for the very best education equips both the soul and the mind.

*Shael Polakow-Suransky, who served as senior deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education from 2011-14, is the president of Bank Street College. (Oct 21, 2015 NY Times article)