As I spend time in each classroom, observing the comings and goings of children and teachers, I can't avoid reflecting on how powerful play is.
I see a two-and-a-half sitting in the sandbox, carefully filling a pail with sand while he narrates his game to himself; developing his incipient language skills and dipping his toes in the waters of symbolic thought.
In the three-year-old classroom, two children are sorting toy apples by color (a useful activity in itself). Soon, each color apple has become a different sort of fruit or vegetable (the red ones are tomatoes, the green ones became peppers...) and the table is a store. There is a serious negotiation about who gets to sell and who is the shopper and at one point it veers into dangerous territory when (obviously) they both absolutely have to be behind the counter. Luckily, creative thinking is not lacking at our store and the children go in search of customers for their fancy establishment with two employees.
My own classroom is full of passionate four-year-olds who start playing with manipulative toys on the rug, building a number of vessels that carry them into outer space; but when I turn my back the vehicles are gone and the same manipulatives are being used to trace the letters printed on the rug.
Watching young children at play is like witnessing the creative process of an artist or a scientist at work. Both the children and the adults go into flow and are able to solve problems, make connections between concepts, develop new ideas... All these things are happening while they play, even if to the untrained eye it looks like "just fun" (which it is) or even chaos.