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The value of learning through play

So, what did you do at nursery today, darling?" "Well MumII improved my social skills by co-operating and sharing with my peers.

"I used my skills of investigation and prediction while working with the sand and water, to say nothing of the mathematical and scientific vocabulary I was exercising.

"I strengthened my fine motor control by manipulating playdough, threading beads, painting and drawing.

"I used my imagination in the home corner, set the confusing adult world to rights by re-enacting it, and widened my vocabulary at the same time.

"I laid the foundations for formal reading and writing in the book corner and at the drawing table.

"I used mathematical equipment, games and computer programmes to build up my counting skills, number recognition and one-to-one correspondence.

"I used puzzles and construction equipment to develop my problem-solving abilities and spatial awareness.

"I learned about being part of a large group, about waiting my turn, sitting still when necessary, listening to others, concentrating, and about what behaviour is appropriate and what isn't.

"I learned to climb, run, jump and skip in the open air. I practised throwing, catching, kicking and rolling, as well as spending time exploring the natural environment.

"IIwell, I packed so much into two-and-a-half hours that I can't really tell you the half of it."

"You see, it's just as I thought. All they ever do in that nursery is play. Now you're four I don't see why you can't start big school."

Postscript: any reception class teacher will tell you that nurseries run on the basis of learning through play. The experiences provide children with invaluable foundations on which to build the more formal learning that they will meet when they start primary school. Without nurseries and all that they provide, children are likely to miss out in the present and in the future.

Let's value the learning that goes on through play. And you know, Mr Major, it's a very difficult business teaching the three Rs if those basic skills learned in nurseries are not there.

Joanna Gordon is a nursery teacher from Reading, Berkshire.

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