Early Learning Day highlights importance of play

Young children and early learning advocates gathered at the Idaho State Capitol Wednesday for a day of play, filling the Rotunda to enjoy blocks, books, puzzles and playdough.

This is the fifth year that the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children has hosted an Early Learning Day at the Capitol. The nonprofit was joined by Idaho Voices for Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Idaho Chapter, the Idaho Commission for Libraries and Ada Community Libraries.

Children from local programs participated in BLOCK Fest®, an interactive exhibit developed in Idaho. Rotating through stations featuring blocks of different sizes, children created patterns, built structures and told each other stories.

Idaho is one of six states that does not invest in preschool options for families with children 3 to 5 years old. Research shows that if a young child doesn’t have the right kinds of interactions in the first few years of life, the brain doesn’t build itself properly.

Young children need hands-on experiences – not hours sitting at desks – to develop critical math, literacy and social skills. Early Learning Day illustrates that kind of high-quality learning.

“This is always a fun and important day for us. It’s a reminder of what’s truly at stake when we discuss investment in early education,” said Idaho AEYC Executive Director Beth Oppenheimer. “When you watch children play with blocks, you are really watching them build a foundation for success in school and beyond.”

That’s because when children play with blocks, they are also building problem-solving skills, practicing math concepts such as length and comparison, learning to take turns, developing creativity and much more. The simple act of sculpting with playdough, as another example, also brings a multitude of development opportunities, from learning about shapes to building vocabulary as children explain what they are creating.