One expert says just because children are playing doesn't mean they're not using literacy and numeracy skills.
Clara Maria Fiorentini is a lecturer in Initial Teacher Education, Literacy and Early Childhood Education at the Marino Institute.
She was speaking as a new UCD study suggested children should be doing less work and more play before they start Junior Infants.
It found more children are struggling with practical skills, despite being academically advanced.
The Children's School Lives study said some children are struggling with tasks like putting on a coat, or putting away their lunchbox.
But Ms Fiorentini told The Hard Shoulder we could be too quick to judge.
"It might be a premature rush to certain areas of literacy and numeracy - things that can be easily measured.
"Maybe like phonics, children's alphabetic knowledge, their counting, their number writing, their letter formation and so on.
"Often there's tendencies to rush to those things because you can have worksheets, you can have tangible, measurable things.
"But the rush to those types of things - while it might look like children are over-prepared in that regard - we're sacrificing other things, like their language development, which actually they need for everything else.
"And if we think about the pandemic period, the thing that children missed out the most on was interactions.
"We're going to see the knock-on effects of this for quite a while to come."
'A very different system'
She said the system is different to what we may be used to
"We have a very different pre-school system to what we had maybe 10, 15 years ago.
"Playful learning is now a big, big part of that - but it's really important that we're all embracing that and appreciating that."
She said this new classroom is "active, it's playful, it doesn't necessarily look like all-day sitting around little desks with worksheets.
"But that doesn't mean that the children aren't learning. In fact literacy and numeracy is ongoing more than ever".
And she added that while certain subjects have to be taught traditionally, this doesn't mean learning isn't happening.
"Playful learning is never going to replace explicit teaching - there's always going to be a space for explicit teaching.
"We have to teach certain things through traditional lesson format.
"However the skills that children are learning - their reading and writing skills, their numeracy skills, their history and geography - everything has to be contextualised through play.
"We can plan for all sort of different types of play within the classroom right across the day.
"The children are using their conventional literacy skills as they play.
"There might be a little role play area, there could be playdough, there could be sand and water - but it's never just play.
"The curricular learning is ongoing through that, it's all integrated".