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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.


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.”