Kindergarten has a bit of a reputation. I have had friends, family, and even other teachers say to me, “How can you complain about being tired at the end of the day? Don’t you just sing songs and eat snacks and read stories and finger paint and play all day? Don’t they just run around and play? What do children even learn in kindergarten anyway? It doesn’t sound like all that difficult of a job…”
I’m not going to lie – those things do happen in kindergarten, and they happen every single day. To the untrained eye a kindergarten classroom must resemble a disorganized battlefield of crumbs, legos, puzzle pieces, paint, books, doll limbs, and wounded soldiers. But I think it’s important to set the record straight that those kindergarten activities happen on a daily basis for purposeful reasons, and that the inner workings of a kindergarten classroom is totally normal chaos.
We sing songs because using rhythm, rhyme, and tune helps young children remember important information, like the letters of the alphabet and other foundations of literacy. We eat snacks because kindergarten brains are going through one of the greatest periods of growth a human will experience outside of the womb, and all of that growing needs a lot of fuel.
We read stories because children learn how to predict, feel empathy, identify with others, connect, explore, deal with life’s difficult moments, and imagine through picture books – all very valuable tools that we use throughout the rest of our lives. We play because young children create friendships, experience emotions like anger and jealousy and how to handle those emotions effectively, act out different roles, problem solve, and learn that the job gets done quicker when we share responsibility. Play helps set the foundation for healthy social interactions with peers as we get older.
We finger paint because exploring through touch helps create connections between sensory information and the brain, and because with a limited vocabulary art is one of the earliest tools children use to express themselves after graduating from temper tantrums. Not to mention that the feeling of paint squishing between your fingers is surprisingly satisfying.
Yes, we have a lot of fun in kindergarten; but our day is also organized to provide children with the greatest opportunities for learning delivered in the most effective ways. Kindergarten exists in it’s own world within a school – it has it’s own rules, it’s own schedule, and a very delicate balance that not everybody can understand. If you ever have a chance to be accepted into a kindergarten classroom, you will see that it is a world full of wonder, whimsy, innovation, imagination, curiosity, love, exploration, fun, tough lessons, and teamwork. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will surely give you a renewed sense of appreciation for just how special our world is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have some cookies and a nap…