Teacher! Leave Them Kids Alone!

Are We Ruining Our Kids’ Imagination – in Kindergarten??!!

By Shlomo  Maital  

           kindergarten math

A Kindergarten Math Work Sheet

    My wife, a school psychologist specializing in early childhood, drew my attention to some disturbing research, that confirms my earlier blogs about the worrisome decline in creativity among children, due to rigid test-based schooling. 

     In their book  Crisis in the Kindergarten:  Why Children Need to Play in School, (Alliance for Childhood, College Park MD., 2009)  Edward Miller and Joan Almon report on research  argues that:

      “the traditional kindergarten classroom that most adults remember from childhood—with plenty of space and time for unstructured play and discovery, art and music, practicing social skills, and learning to enjoy learning—has largely disappeared. Among the findings of the latest research,  … is that, on a typical school day, kindergartners spend four to six times as much time in literacy and numeracy instruction and taking tests or preparing to take them (about two to three hours per day) as in free play or “choice time” (30 minutes or less).

     What are the poor kids doing?  Filling out work sheets like the one shown above (“counting backward”).   No Child Left Behind has now polluted our kindergartens, after ruining elementary and secondary schools with its ‘study-to-take-tests’ approach.

     Why is this happening?  Well, of course, because kids who start learning stuff early do better later, right?


“Most troubling in this hijacking of kindergarten is that there is no evidence that a heavy emphasis on teacher-led instruction and scripted curricula yields long-term benefits for children. In particular, low-income children who need support to succeed in school are not showing significant long-term gains.”

    There is no benefit from eliminating unstructured play in kindergartens. But there is huge damage.   Take away kids’ unstructured play and you remove their daily opportunities to dream, to imagine, to play-act, and in general, to create worls where anything is possible.  This is proven.

     It’s bad enough when we do this in elementary school.  But in kindergarten???? In a society that pays lip service to innovation, why are we ruining our kids’ imaginations, at the age when creativity is at its peak? 

   The above research is about American kindergartens; but I have a hunch the trend is spreading elsewhere, too.  In Asia, where competition to get in to elite colleges is fierce, I understand that preparations for this can begin as early as kindergarten. 

     Let’s recall Pink Floyd’s song The Wall: “Teacher leave them kids alone. Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!”    It starts in kindergarten.

     If you have small children or grandchildren in kindergarten, hang around some time and see what they do.  Check out whether your kids are allowed to be kids, or whether they become miniature college students.  You do have the choice – you can pick nurseries and kindergartens that get it.  It’s your responsibility.