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Why Kindergarten in Finland Is All About Playtime (and Why That Could Be More Stimulating Than the Common Core)

A working paper, “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” confirms what many experts have suspected for years: The American kindergarten experience has become much more academic—and at the expense of play.

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In fact, Finland requires its kindergarten teachers to offer playful learning opportunities—including both kinds of play—to every kindergartner on a regular basis, according to Arja-Sisko Holappa, a counselor for the Finnish National Board of Education. What’s more, Holappa, who also leads the development of the country’s pre-primary core curriculum, said that play is being emphasized more than ever in latest version of that curriculum, which goes into effect in kindergartens next fall.

“Play is a very efficient way of learning for children,” she told me. “And we can use it in a way that children will learn with joy.”