In the above-linked article, Deborah McNelis, an early childhood brain specialist, touts playtime to be just as important to early childhood brain development as proper nutrition. Many experts state the importance of play in early childhood. The two most popular, mass-marketed infant-toddler curricula available today emphasize the “play-based” nature of the items on their curricula. McNelis, however, is the first specialist I have come across who also includes the importance of speaking and interacting with children, alongside playing with them, as crucial to brain development. To top it off, she even stresses the importance of encouraging children to use their 5 senses to explore their world and to build brain connections. In the article, McNelis summarizes, “The brain adapts to whatever environment it is exposed to. …If a child isn’t hearing and experiencing direct and interactive language, those brain connections aren’t going to develop language.”
As stated in the introduction of my ORB3 Infant-Toddler Curriculum, playing with infants and toddlers without speaking to them will not lead to school readiness or success in life. Simply because a child plays appropriately with a baby doll for an hour, pushes a train around a track 100 times, or builds an amazing block structure will not guarantee that the child is learning the language structures and vocabulary he will need to be successful in school. Hearing and experiencing language, the currency of the school setting, is what will best prepare a child for school, no matter how much or how wonderfully he can play.