There is an old adage that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. This is true, and can be attributed to the way young children are taught in schools.

These days, preschoolers suffer from hidden stress, as they are loaded with a lot of bookwork at school and then given loads of homework to do in the evening while at home. This makes one wonder when these children should have time to play and rest.

According to the Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development, play-based learning is valuable for strengthening many areas of development and learning among children.

It describes play-based learning as any activity or game that builds children’s development and academic skills.

It is also an effective teaching strategy, which should be simple, fun and collaborative. It further explains how play strengthens a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

Preschool teachers can incorporate free-based play for children’s self-regulation and guided play to develop their academic skills like numerical abilities, shapes and colours.

For play-based learning to be successful in Tanzania – where preschools have since mushroomed, raising concern about the quality of early childhood education offered – children should learn through experimentation, play and interaction with supportive adults and a conducive environment, not loads of books.

The goal in earlier years is to encourage playful exploration – to let children be children, and explore the world in a safe, calm and supportive environment.

However, high-pressure teaching approaches, which often are either demanded by parents or imposed on children by preschools, run completely against what is needed.

At times, there is pressure parents put on their children to ensure that they “get ahead”, not aware of the stress they put their children through.

What happened to the good old days when all that children would do in preschools was to sing, play, eat and sleep?