Parent Voice

Kindergarten: No Sandbox Needed

Why is it assumed that as a mother of a kindergartner, I want him to have a sandbox and a water table in his classroom? Sure, he had a sandbox in preschool and easels for painting with a smock. I don’t recall any water tables, other than the one we had at home when he was toddling around and loved splashing his toys in a contraption that, at the time, was the perfect height. He was 3 then. A window into my kneejerk reaction against moving back towards a more play-centered kindergarten may be something my 6-year-old said this week. In his folder came home a large piece of paper in the shape of a banner. Each side asks a question and the children are supposed to pick the question they want to answer. Once they’ve decided, they write the answer inside the banner and then decorate the whole thing any way they’d like; each child will have the opportunity to share these during their kindergarten graduation ceremony. The options were “What is your favorite thing about kindergarten?” and “What will you miss most about kindergarten?” Well, my littlest guy chose the first question about his favorite thing and actually kind of surprised me with his answer. READING. Reading I double checked and asked him, “Are you sure your favorite thing about this whole kindergarten year is reading?” “Yep. I’m sure.” I pressed. “How come?” “Because I really like reading.” (At this point, I think he was thinking “Duh, Mom.”) Hmmm. Who knew? As I type this, this same son happens to be home sick with a fever. However, since he is currently enjoying the effects of some trusty Motrin, he’s off the couch and yes, you guessed it, he’s playing. He’s got hockey guys set up on the kitchen floor and is announcing the entire game while his plastic players shoot and score. I’m not sure that he needs more play in school. He comes out of school smiling every day. He has recess daily and PE twice a week—he describes what he does during both as “playing.” And yet he didn’t say recess or P.E. was his favorite thing about kindergarten. He said reading. You might be thinking that he must be one of those freakish reading prodigies, tearing through chapter books since infancy. Nope, not even close. If given the choice of what to do at home, reading would be pretty far down on his list, way after every sport involving a ball, swimming, watching TV, playing on the iPad and eating ice cream or Doritos. Kids learn through everything they do. It is indisputable that they learn through play too, whether it be alone, with their siblings, or with their classmates and friends. And I wouldn’t mind if there were water tables, sandboxes and easels in my youngest son’s classroom. But he doesn’t need them because whatever he has in his classroom, it’s working. It starts with fantastic teachers who know how to engage young children in learning while also helping them push far beyond the old definition of what a kindergartner can do and be.  
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island.
Photo Courtesy of Erika Sanzi.
Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting ...

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