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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 2 Introduction Leaving Play-Based Curriculum for Prepared Curriculum Early childhood professionals understand that children learn through play-based experiences, and yet many teachers find it a challenge to imple- ment teaching strategies that support children’s learning through play. It is increasingly difficult for teachers to provide experiences for children that are active, child-centered, intellectually engaging, and constructive. There is pressure from well-intentioned groups, such as policy makers and administrators, to push academics for young children, and many teachers are required to teach using a prepared curriculum. Families, too, are wor- ried that their children will not be prepared for kindergarten without what they consider to be academic rigor. And yet prepared curriculum often has little interest to children, in part because it often contains activities that are inappropriate and involves meaningless tasks. It typically does not take into consideration how chil- dren learn. The rationale to use such curriculum is to improve standard- ized test scores and prepare children academically for kindergarten, not to support their growth and development. Prepared curriculum also limits teachers’ critical thinking, creativity, and active engagement in curriculum development based on the needs and interests of the children they teach. Narrowing In on Standards and Accountability All states have adopted standards or guidelines for preschoolers that outline skills, abilities, and knowledge that children should achieve in key learning areas of development. Many of these standards are based on elementary school content areas such as math and literacy and do not recognize that how young children learn is different than how school-age children learn. Learning is profoundly integrated in young children. Early childhood edu- cators are required to teach so children can meet the standards, and some states are beginning to hold educators accountable for making sure that children have mastered required outcomes. This means that some teach- ers are mandated to measure outcomes and provide evidence that children have mastered required measures. It is a challenge to balance the standards’ emphasis on academic rigor with research findings that value play and young children’s developmental needs. The standards may be designed for teachers to plan curriculum or for use as a framework for general planning, but they can also lead to nar- rowly focused teaching and inappropriate expectations. Too often, a teach- er’s time is dominated by completing assessments and required forms and conducting teacher-directed activities rather than spending high-quality time with children engaged in meaningful investigations. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL