The how and why of play-based kindergarten for NH students

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MANCHESTER, NH – It took some doing, but NH State Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, shepherded a bi-partisan play-based kindergarten bill into law during the last legislative session, which means that classrooms across the state will be geared toward hands-on learning when the Class of 2030 reports for school this year.

Sullivan talks about what motivated her to put the legislation forward and what it took to see it through in the YouTube video posted at the top of the story.

Since endeavoring to return more “play time” into the learning process for kindergarteners, Sullivan says she’s had an outpouring of support from New Hampshire educators – including teachers. Most surprising, said Sullivan, was the groundswell of support and interest from educators from across the country, who are applauding New Hampshire’s bold step beyond basic academics, toward nurturing the development of the whole child – physical, social, cognitive, and language.

State Rep. Victoria Sullivan with her sons Buddy, left, and Seamus, at a recent stop at Pine Island Park playground. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Sullivan said her journey into state politics was inspired by her sons, Buddy, 13, and Seamus, 11, who are both moving into middle school this year. But it was contrasts in curriculum and classroom methodology during their early education that led her to question the increasing rigors of kindergarten, and focus on the advantages to the development of healthy, happy students by building in more socialization skills for young students entering the system.

“Kindergarten means ‘a child’s garden’ and it was intended to be movement and outdoors and just let them be creative and let teachers see who they are and where their strengths are – and at the same time, recognize where their weaknesses are, and give them guidance in that direction,” Sullivan said.

HB 1499 was added as an amendment to NH RSA 193-E:2-a, the Substantive Educational Content of an Adequate Education law. Also referred to as the “play-based model,” the new section of the law states:

“Instruction in support of kindergarten standards shall be engaging and shall foster children’s development and learning in all domains including physical, social, cognitive, and language. Educators shall create a learning environment that facilitates high quality, child-directed experiences based upon early childhood best teaching practices and play-based learning that comprise movement, creative expression, exploration, socialization, and music. Educators shall develop literacy through guided reading and shall provide unstructured time for the discovery of each child’s individual talents, abilities, and needs.”

Dr. Kimberly Nesbitt of UNH was in Concord on Aug. 20, 2018, to speak to
educators, curriculum instructors, and administrators. Courtesy/NHDOE

On Aug. 20, Dr. Kimberly Nesbitt, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire, met with state educators for the first of two planned workshops to discuss instructional strategies and tools before the beginning of the new school year starts. A second workshop was scheduled for Aug. 24.

Below are links for resources aimed at teachers, curriculum instructors, and administrators, including Nesbitt’s PowerPoint presentation in pdf format and the workshop, broken out into seven video segments:

For more information about Play-Based Kindergarten strategies and the new law, visit the NH DOE’s Kindergarten Toolkit page, linked here.


About this Author


Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!