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  • Naomi Sukenik

Early Childhood Education and Academics

Updated: Apr 3

(Read About Day 10 Here)

As many of you know my daughter is in a public school Kindergarten here in Merced. One of the things that drives me mad is the amount of worksheets and learning passively that occurs in her class. I have seen studies stating the academic benefits of learning academic “skills and proficiencies” in early childhood settings but they are unable to remove other variables that might have contributed to the “success and well being” later in life. These studies are very hard to conduct because eliminating variables is very difficult. For instance, teaching to read in Kindergarten may help prevent going to prison later in life but there are many other factors that affect a person’s outcome. Additionally, holding a longitudinal study often does not offer a control group while control group studies aren't usually longitudinal.

There are also many studies proving that academic studies in and below Kindergarten have no correlation to future positive outcomes. How do we interpret this dissonance of research for our parenting and decision making?

I have read about this a lot and am determined to advocate for more play and learning by doing in an environment conducive to just that, than worksheets, lecturing and passive “ academic” learning any day.

Why should schools incorporate more learning through playing?

  • Research shows that there is an improvement in academic success in future schooling if begun while in kindergarten but only till 2nd grade. After that, there is no significant difference between kids who have learned in an academic oriented preschool and Kindergarten versus a play based one.

  • However, what it has proven, specifically for low income families, is that a stable environment for a child and continuous parent labor force participation decreases the school to prison pipeline and an increase in highschool graduation. It is not conducive that an academic kindergarten is the proof of this but instead the environment provided to create a successful opportunity for a family (child and parent/guardian).

  • Developmentally, children of young ages are less capable of absorbing information while sitting for long stents of time or are they able to comprehend lecture type lessons. Instead they need to be allowed to be active and encouraged to learn by doing (that does not mean cutting out and glueing answers on a sheet of paper (cutting is good for fine motor skills but not for learning information on worksheets)

  • Social Emotional development and teaching self control or restraint is just as important as teaching a child academic skills and content. I would claim that this is more important at a young age to make it possible for a child to learn academically.

  • Social-dramatic play, for instance, is significant for developing executive function which includes skills such as self control, cognitive flexibility, working memory, reasoning and planning. Read more about Executive Function.


  • Through play children learn what interests and motivates them which in return creates a joy for learning through exploration and discovery.

  • Teachers deal with less “behavior” issues only because the kids are not forced to sit or practice something that they are not yet developmentally ready for (don't get me wrong they aren’t incapable it's just not their time yet). Those who are not yet ready are often deemed as the trouble maker or see themselves as stupid lacking self confidence. How horrible is it to lack confidence at such a young age? These are incorrect conclusions from their time as a young student. Teachers end the year feeling much more energetic.

Read about Day 10 here



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