The Magic of Developmental Learning

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Long-term academic success is best achieved by a developmental approach to learning.

By Cheryl Kaywood, former Upper Elementary Principal, Assistant Director of Horizons, teacher and parent at Perimeter School

Since its inception, Perimeter School has believed that long-term academic success is best achieved by a developmental approach to learning. We believe children thrive academically when they are allowed to engage in age-appropriate activities that provide the building blocks for later academic achievement. We practice this philosophy in every grade in our school, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Students are ready to conquer increasingly higher-level skills because they have been given the freedom to build the needed foundations. Our well-prepared graduates and our test scores prove this approach to be successful.

Perimeter School is not the only institution that recognizes the importance of developmental learning. Many studies support this approach, siting the trajectory of learning students follow as they grow when they are exposed to this type of learning. We hope this research will serve to remind our covenant family what a gift it is for our children to be able to discover and learn in this way.


Example of Developmental Learning

While there are many examples of developmental learning in all grades at Perimeter School, one that has garnered some attention of late is building with blocks.  Did you know that big things happen for your child when they do something as simple as play with blocks? If you happen to stroll through the kindergarten halls at the beginning of the school day, you will find students engaging in a time of “free-play” – which often includes playing with blocks. This practice is not a time-filler. It is an important part of our students’ education.

The Benefits

The Department of Health and Human Services at Purdue University sponsored a block party program in order to provide opportunities for parents and children 8 months to 8 years of age to interact and play with blocks. Other universities, researchers, and educators have developed similar programs, and all have noted the strengthening of the foundational skills of higher learning as children play with blocks.

These skills include:

Physical Skills:

Children develop their fine motor skills when picking up small blocks. They strengthen hand/eye coordination as well.

Children strengthen large motor skills as they reach, squat, bend, and change positions while playing.

Cognitive Skills:

Children develop math skills, including sorting, matching, counting, and measuring, as well as estimating and calculating. Additionally, they increase their language, communication skills, and vocabulary. They utilize the basic physics skills of gravity, balance, and stability while building with blocks.

Social Skills:

As children play and construct with their peers they communicate, problem solve, cooperate, plan, and engage in team building.

Did you know that your children were accomplishing all that by playing with blocks? This simple activity – that for many children is all too often replaced by more flashy forms of technological entertainment – is really a vital part of learning for young children.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Are parties necessary for your child to reap the benefits of blocks? Do you need to schedule time to devote to making sure he or she gets the most out of his block time? You’ll be happy to hear the answer is no!

I would venture to say that if we don’t put the Amazon boxes in recycling right away and allow our children to use them, they will build, invent, and create on their own. Let them use pots and pans, Tupperware, canned goods, measuring cups, and various other every-day objects to stack, build, and create. Let them pull out the Duplo blocks and Legos; or if you have wooden blocks or scrap lumber let your child design, pretend, and play with them.

While this may require you to live with skyscrapers, cities, roads, and other inventions in your home for a while, it will be well worth the inconvenience to allow your children to lay the foundation for higher learning through play.

And no matter the age of your students, when they come home telling stories of hands-on activities, creative projects, and other engaging methods of learning, rest assured that they are strengthening academic skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Further reading: Check out this article on the importance of developmental play.