Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Chair/Advisor

Noelle Paufler

Committee Member

Daniella Hall Sutherland

Committee Member

Jennifer Geddes Hall

Committee Member

Anna Brink


This study explores the transformative potential of play in preparing young children for Kindergarten, focusing on the intersection of children's museums, caregiver interactions, and school readiness. The study, conducted over an eight-week Pop-Up Classroom program at The Flowerfield Children's Museum, included 52 participants, primarily from low-income backgrounds. Through a mixed-methods approach, including participant observations and caregiver surveys, the research aimed to answer the fundamental question: What is the role of play in preparing children for Kindergarten?

Two significant findings emerged. Firstly, the study illuminated the pivotal role of play in nurturing social-emotional development and communication skills among children. Structured observations revealed a progression in children's curiosity, self-control, and persistence, highlighting the program's positive impact on these essential skills. Secondly, the research highlighted a critical need for targeted guidance among caregivers. Initial caregiver emphasis on academic skills shifted to recognizing the importance of social, emotional, and communication skills in Kindergarten readiness. Caregivers expressed uncertainty about preparing their children for school, underscoring the necessity for comprehensive and accessible support mechanisms.

This study sheds light on the invaluable contributions of children's museums and similar educational programs and underscores the importance of empowering caregivers with effective strategies. The findings advocate for a holistic approach to early childhood education, acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between play-based learning, caregiver involvement, and children's successful transition to formal schooling. The dissertation concludes by offering recommendations for further research, emphasizing the importance of longitudinal studies, diverse socio-economic considerations, and the continuous development of guidance resources.

Ultimately, this research provides a foundation for shaping inclusive and effective early education policies, ensuring all children have equitable access to quality learning experiences, and setting the stage for a brighter educational future.



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