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Toy Company Founders Worried About Crisis in Kindergarten

The Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit partnership of educators and health professionals, released a report titled ‘Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why children need to play in schools.’ It argues that education in kindergarten has changed drastically. It has become overly focused on academics and test preparation. As a result, active play time has diminished and children no longer have the opportunity to learn through play and exploration.

Studies have shown the vital importance of play in young children’s development. Children who engage in play have greater language skills, better social skills, more empathy, and more imagination. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking.

Jason Smith, the Co-Founder of Click-A-Brick, expresses concern over the report. “Most children today don’t have enough playtime even at home,” Smith said. “They need help entering into creative play because of the surplus of media and organized activities in their lives. This is a tragedy. How do we expect them to achieve their full potential if their creativity is stunted in childhood? That’s what our toy lines are built on. We aim to provide children and their families the opportunity for unstructured creative play. It’s the engine of learning in early childhood, necessary for physical, social, and emotional development.”

Kindergarten today gravitates towards prescriptive curricula linked to state standards. They are designed as a component to standardized tests. Teachers have to follow scripts and cannot deviate from them. High-stakes testing and test preparation in kindergarten are becoming the norm. In all-day kindergartens, children spend four to six times as much time in instruction and test preparation as in free play.

The Co-Founder of Click-A-Brick Georg de Gorostiza advocates for unstructured play time. “Recess is more than just simple fun,” de Gorostiza said. “Children work hard at play. They invent scenarios, solve problems, and learn social negotiation skills. They know what they want to do and work hard to do it. The toy sets at Click-A-Brick are designed to encourage just that, to let them motivate themselves to achieve and build something. That’s such a powerful lesson.”

The Alliance for Childhood was founded in 1999 and funded entirely by grants and donations from individuals, foundations, and businesses. The nonprofit advocates for policies and practices that support children’s healthy development, love of learning, and joy in living.

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