As adults, we tend to draw a pretty clear line between work and play. Most often, the two don’t coexist at the same time or in the same space. When it comes to our children’s ability (and need) to harmonise these two aspects of life, the opposite is true. Though children are never ‘at work’ in the adult sense, their work is learning. Research is now showing that, when it comes to young children, bridging the gap between learning and play is an endeavour with great benefit.
Play-based learning promotes a child’s natural drive to explore, to experiment, and to play while providing support and encouragement through adult interactions. Children lead while adults assist, supporting the unique development of each child’s growth. Since children are intrinsically motivated to understand the world around them, they are well-suited to be their own best guides.
Benefits of Play-Based Learning
This type of playful learning is common in pre-schools, though once primary begins, education takes on a more academic, teacher-driven approach. But is it necessary to make a firm switch once kindergarten begins? Contrary to traditional educational formats, research is showing that a play-based curriculum during the first year of formal education improves narrative language ability, play skills, and grammar acquisition in children.
There are countless other ways that play-based learning facilitates a child’s development, including that it:
Promotes creativity, imagination, and problem solving
Play encourages children to creatively explore and interact with the world around them. When children are encouraged to explore their innate imaginative abilities through play, they become more adept problem solvers, becoming better able to find creative solutions to challenges that crop up in their environment.
Encourages development of social skills and emotional intelligence
Play-based learning encourages social development. Through play with others, children begin to better understand what it means to cooperate and to work as a team. Children also come face to face with their emotions and with those of others when they engage in play, which strengthens their emotional intelligence.
Improves cognitive functioning
Play-based learning strengthens executive functions such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-regulation. Even children as young as 4 and 5 have been found to benefit from play-based learning in these cognitive ways.
The implications of play-based learning extend far beyond these benefits. By allowing children to be at the forefront of their learning, they gain the skills to happily and healthily navigate themselves in the ever changing world they’re a part of. Encouraging education through play is a way of celebrating the unique stages of life they’re passing through.
Examples of Play-Based Learning
There are many faces of play-based learning. From solving puzzles to exploring the natural world outside of a child’s home, play and learning can merge in just about any environment. Simply by encouraging children to imaginatively and curiously interact with the world around them we quietly enhance their ability to learn skills that will help them to thrive.
There are also a variety of specific activities and resources available that can enhance the learning environment by providing teachers, parents, and caregivers with tools that inspire meaningful interactions with children.
For example, Bandicute offers consciously crafted sets of Sight Words that parents can use to help their child or children to create small sentences comprised of both sight words and high frequency words (more on that here). The pine discs are etched with these fundamental words and can be strung together by children and parents to improve the child’s budding reading and writing skills. Sentences can start small and then blossom into more elaborate structures, blooming alongside the child’s growing vocabulary.
Whichever way we go about it, encouraging young children to play is an endeavour that not only makes them feel light, playful, and happy; it’s also a way we can naturally help to boost their vocabulary and grammar skill set, their creativity and imagination, as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive skills. If you want to set your child on the right path for a fun and engaging relationship with learning, shop our full range of educational resources today. There really are countless ways to promote happy, healthy, and inspired children.