What is play based learning and why is it so important?
Play based learning is just allowing children to be children. It gives them the space to do things for their own reasons and in their own time. Without pressure to perform, children can experience and thus learn about the world around them. Exploring, creating, problem solving, making mistakes and learning from them are all part of this process.
It is widely understood that children are more engaged when they are interested in what they’re doing. So, we should nurture this by providing the tools and a safe environment. Play-based learning helps children to develop a number of skills crucial in early years: Social and emotional, physical and language development. These are the 3 prime areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Lisa John, Head of Nursery at family members club Maggie & Rose, explains the importance and benefits of play based learning.
The Benefits of Play Based Learning
Developing social and emotional skills
It is important to give children time to explore and express their feelings without pressure to behave in a certain way. Invaluable interpersonal skills such as sharing are developed when children play with one another. There is a cyclical relationship between children playing with each other and their development of social skills. As children create bonds, they develop empathy and an understanding of the impact of their own actions. They learn to get along with one another, share and respond to ideas, negotiate and resolve conflicts. Emotional resilience is also developed as children learn about the diversity of feelings, behaviours and characters of others.
Play is a key tool for language development which parents and teachers can nurture by encouraging conversations and introducing new words. The environment of play allows this to happen in a fun way and tailored to the child’s interests. This allows for their language to develop organically and authentically.
It is needless to say that physical play is fundamental to facilitating a child’s physical development. In fact, it is the sole method for improving important motor skills, like balance and spatial awareness. Making marks in sand and exploring with hands/cutlery whilst eating are prime examples of seemingly trivial physical activities which are essential to childhood development.
Play based learning can involve music, supporting the development of pre-literacy skills, such as listening and sound recognition. Singing songs and reciting rhymes play an important part in laying the foundations for reading and basic literacy. Children also learn literacy skills by playing with various toys and books. This is because they can demonstrate their thinking as they talk about what they are doing.
Children can learn about the world through play, interaction with others and their senses. A primary example of the intellectual development triggered by play is the contribution it makes to a child’s imagination. Through role play and storytelling, children can hugely enrich their naturally vast imagination.
Creativity and imagination
Play encourages a positive attitude towards learning. Imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm and persistence. The inquiry-based nature of play can be supported by the social interactions between teachers and children. Teachers take a supportive role in guiding children’s interactions in play.
Play provides children with an opportunity to develop critical thinking. This means their ability to analyse information, put it in order to make sense of it and apply it in the context of the environment. For example, when a child points out that they have story time before naptime, this is evidence of them using critical thinking.
One of the most important benefits of play is the development of confidence in young children. Encouraging risk-taking and trying new things ignites confidence.
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