By Tara Thompson, District 518 

WORTHINGTON - Over the years, I have heard several realtors say “location, location, location” when it comes to buying/selling a home. As an early childhood professional, over the years, I have found myself saying how important play is in regard to the development of young children. I would like to mirror the realtor saying in my profession and say, “play, play, play.” Play is the answer in raising well-rounded children.    

Many times, people say they understand the importance of play, but do they really? Outdoor play, for example, builds gross and fine motor skills and social development. Dramatic, social or group play supports social emotional development like self-regulation, sharing and negotiation (I see these as very helpful skills for a future job). During play, children also learn skills that help them in resolving conflict. It is also important to incorporate songs, rhymes and storytelling. These activities support language, vocabulary and literacy skills. If these are the skills that children are gaining from play, I think that these are skills that extend beyond preparing kids for school. These skills are making them better prepared for life, too!  

Children need time away from screens. So parents, let’s set some limits on screen time to create uninterrupted time for children to play and explore (this includes the great outdoors). By the way, if you are a parent, when is the last time you played with your children whether it was inside or outside? Just the thought of this brings vivid pictures to mind of laughter, smiles, creativity, questions, conversations and fun!  What a great way to build relationships between parents and children. Parents, it is time to find your inner child and unleash it.

If you are looking for some activities that support play, the Early Childhood program and Community Education have planned some Friday Fun dates and Family Fun events that families may participate in. The Friday Fun is for preschool-aged children and their parent to spend time together in an informal playtime setting. The Family Fun events include five activities for families to participate in together. The activities include a kick off concert, gym nights, ice skating, swimming and a bike and read event. Go to for more information.   If you truly believe that play is important, then stop giving it lip service and start carving out time for play!

Some people ask, “Does District 518 have a preschool program?” The answer is yes! The district preschool programs are located in the West Learning Center. The preschool programs are School Readiness, Family Literacy and Early Childhood Family Education. School Readiness and Family Literacy have a total of 112 slots, and ECFE has 96 slots. And yes, these programs focus on the importance of play in the curriculum.  


Tara Thompson is District 518’s early childhood coordinator.