The Importance of Play Based Learning

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3 year old child plays with wooden cubes with colorful letters on the floor in the room a little girl is building a tower at home or in the kindergarten. Educational toys for young children.

Sitting down and working with your preschooler can be a lot of work. They won’t sit still, they talk and interrupt every time you try to explain something to them. They don’t have a long enough attention span. 

Preparing your young preschooler for school can be hard. You want to have them fully prepared for kindergarten. 

Twin Cities Kids Club is here to help with ways to incorporate play-based learning into your preschooler’s daily activities. Once you find ways to make learning fun, your days stressing over kindergarten prep will diminish. 

Young children enjoying in the playroom

What is Play-Based Learning? 

Play-based learning is defined as a child-directed practice and a way for children to learn while they are at play. There are many different ways that a child can engage in “play.”

Play is a voluntary and enjoyable activity with no real purpose or end goal. When your child participates in play they are learning about the world and how things work. 

Aspects of Play-Based Learning

The aspects of play-based learning include:

 

  • Self-imposed: The play should be voluntarily chosen by the child. How the child decides to play and the duration is their decision. As an adult, you may initiate the play or play in a role that the child invites or suggests, but the child determines the rest.
  • Enjoyed: The play should overall be enjoyable for the child. There can be some frustrations or disagreements during play. Overall the play should be gratifying to the child. 
  • Unregulated: A child needs enough time to explore and discover during play. They should be allowed to follow their interests and not have to follow prescribed plans or rules. 
  • Pretend Play: Their play often involves a lot of imagination and ‘playing pretend’ and ‘make-believe.’ 
  • Process-oriented: The play should be about the process. There is no learning goal or end. The process is the essential aspect of the play.

Close up young girl painting with colorful hands. Art,  creativity and painting concept. Horizontal image.

 

What Play Shouldn’t Look Like

Play should not be “work” oriented or directed by the parent. Some activities are labeled as “play” but are actually learning activities disguised as “play.” An example of this would be a song to help children learn their letters and numbers. 

Turning learning into a fun game is still a great way to get your child learning without stressing about having them sit down and work in a workbook. 

The primary way to tell the difference between the two is to ask yourself if there is an ulterior motive for the activity. 

Ways Play-Based Learning Supports Your Child’s Development

You may start to ask yourself, how is my child going to learn by just playing all day? What will they learn by playing?

Play is so essential to your child’s health, development, and well-being that the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the United Nations High Commission has recognized the act of ‘play’ for Human Rights as a right of every child. 

Social-emotional development

According to Early Childhood Mental Health, social-emotional development is ‘a child’s ability to understand the feelings of others’ feelings, control their feelings and behaviors, get along with other children, and build relationships with adults.’

Social-emotional development will help your child set and achieve goals, understand and feel empathy, make responsible decisions, and establish and maintain positive relationships. 

Children learn and develop their social and emotional skills through play by imagining the world from a different perspective. These skills can also help teach them the differences between themselves and others and how to interact with others.

  • Role-playing can help a child learn how others think and feel. During role-play, a child will act out various scenarios, and explore the possible outcomes of their actions in the real world. 
  • The social aspect of playing with other children helps your child learn how to build friendships and work together. When children play together, it also gives them the opportunity to learn to resolve their own conflicts. 
  • Playing with others in their age group will also help them establish their sense of self. They are able to initiate play and make decisions, which empowers them to become confident, motivated learners. 
  • Creating art in an environment that is play-based exposes the child to the process of creating. Your child learns that there is no right or wrong way to create. Process-focused art allows them to express themselves in the way they choose. They will feel proud and successful, no matter what they make. 
  • Play reduces stress and is an outlet for anxiety. 

Child playing with clay molding shapes, kids art and crafts

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is how your child thinks, explores, and figures things out. The four central areas of cognitive development are motor skills, sensations, literacy, and problem-solving. 

Play is essential for a child’s healthy brain development. When your child engages in play they are able to practice early language and literacy skills, sensation and perception, and even start to understand basic math and science. 

  • Creating art like collages and adding names to their drawings help them learn to convey their ideas through images/art, that letters coney meaning, understand the purpose of letters and writing.
  • When using their imagination, children start to understand symbols. For example, a scarf can be a superhero cape, and a stick can be a sword. Understanding symbols are the key to learning to read and mathematics, as letters and numbers are symbols. 
  • When your child participates in dramatic play, your child will learn to expand their language by talking to each other and practice their storytelling skills.
  • Your child will learn fundamental science skills by exploring things like what happens when they stack blocks and knock them down or what toys will sink or float in water. 

Preschool teacher with children playing with colorful wooden didactic toys at kindergarten

Physical development

A child’s physical development is how their gross and fine motor skills develop. Your child will develop and hone in on these skills through their play. When your child plays, they build their muscles, coordination, and tactile experiences while getting exercise.

  • Play and art help expose your child to tactile experiences. They learn about what wet paint feels like, the feeling of a woodblock, and plush toys. 
  • When your child plays, it increases their physical activity versus partaking in passive entertainment such as watching cartoons or playing games on a cellphone or iPad. 
  • Your child improves muscle mass and coordination when they jump, climb, swing, and run during their play. 

Don’t forget to join Twin Cities Kids Club today!

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