The Finnish school system is known all over the world, and Finnish schools have received media attention for years because of our strong performance in the PISA tests. Our young ones, those who are still in kindergarten, are also getting more and more recognition. Globally, the Finnish early childhood education has garnered a lot of interest.
Children in the Finnish kindergartens start their lifelong learning path by playing and having fun. Kindergarten teachers in our kindergartens and preschools are highly educated professionals and they know what is the natural way for children to learn – through play. In their expert care, children don’t even realize how much they are learning while playing!
Children develop through play
Studies show that children develop through play. While children are playing, they develop their cognitive, social, emotional and physical abilities. When play is fun and child-directed, it engages children and provides them with plenty of opportunities to learn. In Finland, the play-based learning is a part of the National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education.
There is no typical kindergarten day in Finnish kindergartens. Every day is unique and the activities are based on children’s interest and needs, making learning much more meaningful for the children. There are various types of play during the kindergarten day from spontaneous and free form play to more guided and educationally designed play. All of these are important.
More play, less academics
In his article “The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland”, Timothy D. Walker discusses the differences between Finnish and American kindergartens. Unfortunately, children in America must participate in a much more academic setting – at the expense of play. While Finnish children are learning mathematics, social skills and vocabulary through play, American children are using textbooks and filling out worksheets.
Learning should be joyful
According to Walker, the word “joy” is something that describes children’s learning in Finnish kindergartens. The truth is, what doesn’t feel joyful won’t stay in our minds. Children must experience joy in order to learn – and what better way to do this than through play? The combination of learning, joy and play is something that is not always easy but that Finnish kindergartens know how to do.