updated 8/7/2007 4:43:28 PM ET 2007-08-07T20:43:28

Should kids leave preschool with a firmer grasp on finger painting or their ABCs? In response to an MSNBC.com story about moms and dads choosing between schools that emphasize play and those that focus on academics, readers detailed the most important things their children learned during preschool.

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One woman, whose daughter is in preschool now, is content with the play-based learning the preschool offers.

"She is learning how to share, how to listen when the teacher speaks, how to make a mess during art and then help clean it up," writes Nan of Charlottesville, Va. "I couldn't be happier about where she is and what she is learning. She has plenty of years ahead of her for academics."

But another reader, whose daughter went to a similar type of preschool, wishes that schools better balanced play and academics.

"Kindergarten was a very rude awakening, and it made things harder for her," writes Chris of Lincoln, Neb. "I don't think I would have changed preschools, because kids need that time to socialize and have fun before the real work begins. I just wish her school had sneaked a little more of that in between painting and working in the greenhouse. It might have made that transition a little easier."

Keep reading for more responses.

The thing that I felt my son learned most from preschool, and was most valuable, was how to share and play with other children appropriately. There are no drawbacks ... Basically, my stance is a combination of social/play-based learning, as well as some simple academic concepts are a good match for preschool programs today.
— Tricia, West Branch, Iowa

The kids learned that they must be entertained at all times. They were never taught that they had any responsibility for learning or trying to learn. If they were not entertained it was the teacher's fault. They did not learn anything.
— Hillman, Calif.

My daughters have learned to deal with other children. Learning to share, communicate, work together, etc. My daughter was always afraid of the fireman pole at the park, and a little boy patiently taught her to slide down on it. Now she's a pro and teaches other kids to slide down with no fear.
Kelly

In my country, most preschool are academic-based and I've always worried that my son, who is not yet 4, is learning too much, because right now, he can say all his alphabets and his numbers up to 10 but I don't think he really enjoys the academic aspects of preschool. Am afraid this may ruin his love for learning in future. My daughter is 27 months and is already learning her alphabets in preschool. They do it dutifully, and that is making me really unhappy, because I feel it makes the children lacking in social skills and a growing fear of all things academic.
Mariam, Lekki, Lagos

The only things a child picks up from preschool are bad habits and colds. A present and involved parent is the best judge of what a child needs, and also the best teacher.
— Cheryl

I think that preschool has benefited my daughter. She has learned how to write most of her name and is doing well socially with other children her age. I think there are no drawbacks except some schools do push children to learn too much.
— Heidi, Barton, Vt.

Both of my kids learned to play with other kids, share, wait their turn, eat in a group in a civilized manner ... participate in group activities, mind an adult other than me, form friendships and play with other kids. Twenty-seven years ago, I felt that too much structure in preschool was a bad idea. After having watched kids — my own families and those of friends — go through both types, I still think too much too soon is a bad idea. ... They only get to be kids such a short time. They need hugs and naps and to learn to behave way more than they need to learn to read before they are 5.
— Julie, Milpitas, Calif.

I'm a grandma who has had the daily care of a child who is now 6. His life was much different from his single parent dad's, who had 50 kids in a country block to play with. There was not one child in a two-block radius for his son to play with. Preschool was not an option when I raised my children so I was at first leery. It so happened that it became wonderful for Patrick. He had playmates every afternoon for two years. He learned to accept other adults into his life, to dress himself — he could zipper and put all his outdoor winter clothes on. He was able to sit still and listen to stories and discuss the content. He learned to accept and respect authority in our particular school. ... He could recognize and print a few letters and numbers. ... Nothing was ever forced, and our preschool teachers were wonderful. It sure would be nice to have every kid experience what he has.
— Larissa, Ontario, Canada

As a preschool teacher, I find that a balance between play and academics is very important. Many parents don't realize that puzzle-solving and block-building are early forms of math. What may look like play actually takes quite of bit of planning behind the scenes, as the article states. Preschool is also the place where children develop the social skills needed for kindergarten, which is best learned in a group discovery play situation. I am a firm believer that preschool should be fun, helping the child become excited about learning. There are plenty of school years to come with desks and worksheets, but you are only a child for a very short while. Let them enjoy the magic of childhood while they can.
— Anonymous

My son learned real life lessons — things I may have tried to tell him, but he didn't really listen until someone "important" told him, such as, "Don't eat the yellow snow!" He was also introduced to a whole new world outside his home, with new rules, lots of exciting discoveries and diverse friends to explore with.
— Jenny, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

I think the biggest benefit to preschool was teaching my young son social skills in interacting with others that he was not familiar with. While I think that teaching them the generals is important, I think the social skills is definitely important, too. By generals I mean recognizing 1-10 and most, if not all of the alphabet, etc. My oldest did not go to a preschool and I see a lot of social skills that did not develop for him like they did with my middle son, who did attend preschool for a year.
— Veronica

As a kindergarten teacher I think it is important to note that all learning at such a young age can be done in a fun way. You can have both; I know because I do just that every day in my classroom. You can play rhyming games, make patterns with paint and learn sounds with songs. Why should you have to chose between age appropriate and academics?
Brenna, Orem, Utah

Being in a play-emphasis preschool has given my daughter the confidence and social skills to interact positively in a group of peers. Like most children, she is naturally curious and eager to learn. She easily absorbs educational material, especially if it is integrated with games and crafts. Forcing a child to try to learn about letters or numbers before they are ready can only result in an anxious or neurotic kid.
Cathy, Indian Head Park, Ill.

The most important thing my children learned was to play. My son (and youngest, now 18) attended a preschool that taught through play. The school he attended did not sit down and formally teach them their numbers or alphabet, they let them play and they learned. What a concept!
— Janis, Milton, Mass.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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