Pediatric Therapist: Too Much Academic Focus Can Hurt Your Preschooler; Do THIS Instead

November 05, 2015Nov 05, 2015

It's natural for a good parent to want their little tyke to be a young Einstein by the time they enter kindergarten, but pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom believes that in the quest for brain development some well-meaning parents and pre-K teachers leave out an important activity: playtime.

In a column published by The Washington Post, Hanscom argues that too much focus on academic development during the preschool years can rob a child of vital sensory development.


Hanscom herself focused on preparing her daughter for academic success from an early age but was surprised when her daughter's preschool teacher said she struggled with sharing, taking turns, controlling her emotions, and even playing by herself. She felt she had developed sensory and anxiety issues.

In fact, this is not an isolated case but rather a growing trend, according to a long-time preschool director Hanscom interviewed.

The director explained, “Kids are just different. They are more easily frustrated — often crying at the drop of a hat. It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past."

She believes a lack of sufficient playtime is part of the problem.

Hanscom references an Alliance for Childhood report that backs up her assertion.

According to the study, "Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world, and engaging, caring adults."

The report emphasizes the importance of imagination during playtime, where kids mimic the actions of adults. Playing with other kids improves their speech skills, which can help them develop reading skills later on. They discover more objects and symbols and learn to attach the correct words to them.

And playtime should be about more than just the playroom. The study also emphasizes that a child's time spent in nature or public spaces outside of home and school will "broaden their first-hand knowledge of the world around them" and help them attach things they see in person to things they learn about in picture books.

Hanscom also focuses on the physical benefits of play when writing, "If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions."

Do you agree with what she's saying? Would you add more?