Play-Based Early Childhood Builds Critical Skills

Early childhood is a very important time to build pre-academic social-emotional and executive functioning skills. These skills are the foundation of future academic success. For this reason, Waldorf Schools use a play-based learning environment to develop these skills.

At Summerfield Waldorf School & Farm, we know that play-based early childhood education is the most effective and developmentally appropriate way for children to learn at that age. 

If formal academic instruction is pushed too early, research shows that children miss out on developing personal and interpersonal skills that are critical for strong academic growth.

The Psychology Today article, “Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm”, by Peter Gray, Ph.D. states: 

A number of well-controlled studies have compared the effects of academically oriented early education classrooms with those of play-based classrooms. The results are quite consistent from study to study: 

In general, early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at. But these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, in some studies, are eventually reversed. 

Even more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.


That is where the need for play-based learning comes in.


Summerfied’s Early Childhood Program incorporates play in the children’s daily activities. 

Our teachers understand that children not only need creative play, but also rhythm, sensory development, movement, and art. For that reason, all of these skills are built into the foundational curriculum of our classes. It is important to realize that these skills are critical to social-emotional health and academic success. 

For example, our teachers strengthen the social-emotional development through the play-based learning with dolls. We use dolls throughout the Early Childhood years, because that playtime instills compassion, nurture, and fun. 

Academics have a time and a place in education, as does play. And play-based learning is incredibly important to hold onto, especially during the early years. 

Learn more about our Early Childhood Education, and apply now!