Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska Center for Research on


Document Type


Date of this Version



Gerdes, J., Durden, T., & Poppe, L. (2013, June). Play and Learning in the Primary Years. NebGuide G2200. University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.


Copyright University of Nebraska 2013


During the school day, there should be opportunities for children ages 3-8 to gain a deeper understanding of academic concepts through play. Children’s play needs to be encouraged as an essential part of their healthy development. A wide variety of play experiences is necessary to develop a complex and integrated brain.

Research collected as part of the report Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School (2009) shows that children are spending fewer than 30 minutes a day in purposeful play or choice time in the kindergarten classroom, even less in grades 1-3. In contrast, young children are spending four to six times longer on formal math and reading instruction.