How Children Can Learn Through Play
Picture yourself back to your early school days, running freely in the playground with a group of friends and classmates, completely losing track of time and feeling the rush of the game. Your heart was pounding and body was filled with adrenaline when all of a sudden the bell rang and it was time to gather together and head toward the door of your classroom, the slowest steps possible. The “play” was over and it was time to sit down to learn. The message was sent that these two things; play and learning, were separate from one another.
Perspectives have since changed in coming to understanding that we learn so much in those moments of play and that our brains are completely enthralled in the learning paired with our excitement and passion and the benefit of learning through play for children. This play is so very valuable in enriching our children’s love of learning and passion for the future.
What is Play-Based Learning?
Play has the extraordinary power to allow children to entirely be themselves, to act out the words, themes and storylines they see around them everyday. Their little minds soak everything in; from TV and books, through siblings, parents and friends. They are intrinsically motivated to investigate and come to understand their world. Watching a growing baby take in all they see around them – to figure out tasks such as self-feeding and kicking off a shoe, it’s easy to understand the value in applying what they learn in play. Step-by-step, they apply knowledge and their ever-growing skills to find out more and continue to build on it. Play-based learning provides a space for experimentation, where no outcome expected of children and nothing “needs to be accomplished”, and children are free to learn at their own pace. Using play-based learning, we can put value on play as the safe space for learning.
The Top 6 Benefits of Learning Through Play for Children:
- Crosses barriers of culture, language and ability
- Becomes a tool for communication
- Allows new skills to be applied and developed
- Is a safe space for children to experiment and find their voice
- Social skills development
- Many areas of the brain are involved allowing for advanced cognitive development
Learning Through Play Activities
As a mother myself, I remember those early days wondering where the village was that was going to help me raise my child. Where were those people who would guide me and support me as I help my child figure out who they are and their place in the world? It can feel incredibly overwhelming in addition to all that we deal with as moms, to also take on a role of educator. But building upon our children’s passions and knowledge need not be an addition to all that we have to do, rather it can happen in part of what we do each day and become a seamless part of our home.
Not all play looks the same and there is no one way to accomplish it. Following your child’s interests and passions and building upon them is the best way to engage them. Using this to drive their interest in activities, you can show connections everywhere and in everything we learn.
Perhaps your child is intrigued by firetrucks. Using this as your guide, you can illustrate to your child that there is a world of information involved:
- People who build the trucks and those who drive them
- The equipment that can be found all over the truck – what it is used for and how to use it
- The sounds the truck makes and the message that sends to the community
- The route the truck takes and what that looks like on a map
- What the truck accomplishes at the end of its journey and how we know when the truck’s job is done
- The care of the truck and where it is stored
- The color of the truck and the significance and meaning attached to “red”
It’s incredible! Math, science, art, literacy, physical education, communication, community, the list goes on. It’s all involved in a little one’s love of firetrucks and by getting involved in their passion, you are introducing them to a world of possibility while their smile beams from ear to ear.
Supporting Children to Learn Through Play
Children are truly alive in a moment of fun. You know this from watching your children completely lost in their play, coming up for breath with rosy cheeks and a sparkle in their eyes. They are completely engaged in the learning, taking it all in from what we now know is valuable learning.
Creating the space for learning through play to be encouraged is as easy as allowing children to become active participants in shaping their play – at any age. Engage with them in the play and welcome it in everyday activities.
Taking something such as making pancakes on a weekend morning and turning it into an adventure could look like this:
- Science and math through measuring and pouring as well as cause and effect
- Literacy (even for those who cannot yet read) allows little ones to come to understand that by following a recipe something can be created, step-by-step
- Social and emotional learning by creating a meal for members of the family and the pride of having done so
- Communication and language in talking through the process and a shared experience when eating with family
- Setting the table teaches responsibility to the child as well as cleaning up afterward as part of the activity and not the dreaded part afterward
- Physical development in moving around the kitchen to accomplish the goal, lifting and pouring, stirring
- I could easily go on…
To your child this is exactly what they want – to get their hands dirty, to have your entire attention, to “play with you”. While for you, you are introducing them to a wealth of curriculum, in real life application and connecting with them in a meaningful way.
Play need not be seen as the reward after the work is done, as it often is in a traditional school setting, but rather a part of the learning. We often get out of the habit of play as we grow older, but establishing the value in play as a method of learning will remind you just how fun and exciting it can be to go on these learning adventures with your child.
Let’s take the pressure off and let them be little – for it’s for such a short while
Our children are incredible reminders about the power of laughter, and fun and the heartwarming impact of a shared moment. By creating opportunities and putting value on the learning that comes from play you are giving your child the world and telling them that the future is theirs to discover.
Jessica McKenna is a passionate educator and mother who applies a child’s motivation for learning into activities that can easily be done at home. Jessica shares these activities and resources with fellow mommas looking to make life a little easier at booksbeesandabcs.com. You’ve got this, Momma!