Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 1
 
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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Former Kindergarten Teacher Joan Almon Stresses Child’s Play as Vital at Waldorf

Linda Arntzenius

“In too many schools, play has become a four-letter word,” according to Joan Almon, a former Waldorf kindergarten teacher for 20 years and the author of numerous papers on the vital role of play in early childhood.

Ms. Almon will address the issue in her talk, “The Vital Role of Play in Developing Language & Creative Thinking,” on Thursday, January 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Waldorf School of Princeton, 1062 Cherry Hill Road.

As coordinator of U.S. Alliance for Childhood, Ms. Almon is frequently called upon to spread the word about the importance of play, which is the the subject of a recently-published report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), stressing that play and recess time are undervalued and utterly necessary.

“Creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy children,” Ms. Almon said. “Play helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it. It allows them to digest life and make it their own. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood.”

According to the AAP, children learn primarily through play and imitation in the early years, absorbing, digesting, and experiencing the world around them through imaginative activities that help in the development of language and creative thinking skills.

But increased emphasis on testing erodes the time for unstructured play, leading to increased stress for children and parents, according to the AAP report.

“Teachers know that imaginative play is the way young children discover the world for themselves and become lifelong learners,” said Ms. Almon. “But misguided policies that require increasing amounts of formal instruction — and even scripted teaching — are forcing teachers in kindergartens and preschools to do things that they know are wrong and counterproductive.”

“Creative play, long considered the foundation of the early childhood curriculum, is now disappearing from preschools and kindergartens,” according to Ms. Almon, whose Waldorf presentation will include an update on the latest research findings for teachers and mental health professionals, as well as parents.

Ms. Almon co-founded the Waldorf School of Baltimore and is a member of the Board of the International Waldorf Kindergarten Association as well as the Council of the U.S. Anthroposophical Society. Since 1976, she has also been an active puppeteer and member of marionette troupes presenting fairy tales to children and adults.

The event will take place in the Waldorf School’s Community Room. The cost is $15 and will be limited to 100 attendees. To register, call (609) 466-1970 extension 26. For more information, visit: www.princetonwaldorf.org. For more on the Alliance for Childhood visit: www.allianceforchildhood.org.

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