Academics vs. Play: The False Dilemma That Some Principals Face

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Photo: Long Story Short Media
Media Outlet: National Association for the Education of Young Children

Abbie Lieberman and Shayna Cook wrote a blog post for NAEYC regarding the connection between children’s play and learning and how principals can recognize and utilize best practices:

Elementary school principals don’t always recognize how much children learn through play. In fact, play is a vehicle for student-centered learning, allowing meaningful interactions and conversation. Guided play helps children learn to solve problems, persist through challenges, build vocabulary skills, and gain background knowledge in many content areas. Many studies show the value of play-based learning. Yet it is far too rare in the early grades.
To be strong early education leaders, principals need better preparation, professional development, and support from districts and states. Some states and districts around the country are stepping up. Illinois, for example, is reaching principals before they start leading schools. The state has recently revamped its licensure system, replacing the K–12 principal license with a P–12 license. Early childhood content is now woven through the curriculum so that all aspiring principals receive preparation in pre-K.


Abbie Lieberman is a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the Early & Elementary Education Policy team, where she provides research and analysis on policies that impact children from birth through third grade

Shayna Cook is a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the Learning Technologies project. Cook researches and reports on innovation in family engagement, new technologies, and digital equity issues concerning children from birth through third grade.