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The 2011 Family Impact Seminar
Learning to Play,
Playing to Learn:
The Importance of Play in Early Childhood and the Transition to School



On Saturday, February 19, the 2011 Illinois Family Impact Seminar brought together more than 150 Illinois child care providers and educators to discuss the importance of playful learning. Video of the event (produced by Chicago Access Network Television) is below.

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia opened the morning event by thanking the participants for playing such an important role in the state’s future. Rep. Chapa LaVia pointed out that the state must begin considering new strategies for education in order to be nationally competitive.

Keynote speaker Kathy Hirsh-Pasek took the stage for an engaging and educational talk about changing the lens we use to look at learning in early childhood. Hirsh-Pasek is a scholar at Temple University and is the author of two best-selling books about child development: Einsten Never Used Flashcards and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool.

Hirsh-Pasek presented scholarly evidence proving that play is an integral part of cognitive, emotional, and social development. When children are playing, Hirsh-Pasek said, they are building their skills in “The 6Cs:” collaboration, communication, critical thinking, content, confidence, and creative innovation.

















Watch an edited version of Ms. Hirsh-Pasek's presentation.
















(Click here to view the video on YouTube)

Hirsh-Pasek argued:

  • As we enter the “knowledge age,” integrating information and innovation is key, which requires much more than simply memorizing facts and words. It requires creative, critical thinking skills in collaborative environments. Laying the foundation for this type of thinking begins in the earliest stages of life.
  • Time for play in classrooms has declined significantly in the past ten years. This time is being replaced by test preparation.
  • Our society confuses learning with memorization and test scores with success. This does not prepare children to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Why has this occurred? Hirsh-Pasek argued that we are misled by exaggerated science, societal forces, and marketing ploys.
  • Research has shown that playful learning trumps all other pedagogies. Students who are engaged in guided play at an early age consistently perform better as they advance through the school system.
  • There is a huge gap between what we know in the science and what we do in policy. It is time for the U.S. to focus time in classrooms on playful learning. Illinois can be a leader in putting the nation’s schools on the right track.

State Representative Roger Eddy addressed the participants after a short break. He discussed the importance of prioritizing education despite a difficult budget situation that will force cuts to many state-funded services.

A panel of experts discussed strategies at the state policy level for shifting the lens to develop curricula centered on playful learning.

















Watch an edited version of the panel discussion.
















(Click here to view the video on YouTube.)

Kay Henderson, Division Administrator, Early Childhood Education, Illinois State Board of Education discussed progress that has been made so far in Illinois and priorities for developing new approaches.

Pat Chamberlain, an expert on English language learners in preschool and a member of the Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Committee of the Illinois State Board of Education, discussed the ramifications of playful learning for students who speak English as a second language, and on enhancing diverse classrooms.

Sue Sokolinski, an elementary school teacher from Batavia with 20 plus years of experience in early childhood, described a specific strategy, The Daily Five, that elementary school teachers can use in their classrooms to incorporate more playful learning in their lesson plans on a daily basis.