7 Important Benefits of Learning Through Play

For adults, letting kids play might seem like a “break” from learning, but for children, play is so much more! In fact, play is an incredibly important part of your child’s development.

A famous child psychologist named Jean Piaget once said, “Play is the work of children”. Allowing your child the opportunity to play is one of the best ways to help them grow, learn, and interact with the world around them.

Unfortunately, society has shifted to more formal ways of teaching young children. Kids are being forced to do worksheets and workbooks to help them learn letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and more. While this form of education and learning makes sense for an adult, it is actually not very effective for teaching young children.

Kids learn best through play. They learn when they are experiencing new things and using their senses to explore and connect with their environment.

The benefits of learning through play are truly endless and we must provide our children with the resources to include more play in their day!

What is Learning Through Play?

Learning through play is an approach to parenting and teaching that focuses on providing children with hands-on, meaningful experiences.

This method is an amazing way to foster your child’s numeracy and literacy skills, while also helping them to grow holistically.

Through this type of play, children are able to strengthen their problem-solving skills, expand their creativity, and learn so much more!

The Top 7 Benefits of Learning Through Play

Play-based learning is a great way to spark a child’s natural curiosity to support a healthy development.

Here are 7 incredibly important benefits of learning through play:

1) Communication and Language Development

Play is an amazing tool that can be used to improve your child’s communication skills. Simple language activities, like board games or Simon Says, are great ways to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Pretend play is also a wonderful way to help with language skills. During this type of play, children have to negotiate and discuss different points of view. If kids are pretending to be a doctor and patient, the children first have to figure out who will act in each role, and then they will have to act out the scenario by expressing their perceptions of those different roles.

Practice makes perfect! The more children play and have meaningful interactions, the better they will become at communicating with others.

learning through play examples

2) Emotional Regulation

Social-emotional regulation is a very important life skill that needs to be nurtured during the early childhood years. It is also a big component of the school readiness skill set that children should be developing before entering kindergarten.

The best way to help children develop emotional regulation is through play. A research article posted in ScienceDirect found that children who had lots of free play during their toddler and preschool years actually had better self-regulation skills 2 years later.

Play allows children the opportunity to learn how to process their emotions, understand how they feel, and express those feelings appropriately in a safe and controlled environment.

3) Confidence

The number one way children gain confidence is through unstructured free time. Kids need to be able to explore, take risks, and learn personal responsibility.

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that independent activity and self-directed play are essential for children to feel capable and confident in their skills. The article shows that there has been a drastic decline in parents allowing risky play like climbing trees which has actually increased childhood anxiety and phobias while decreasing self-confidence levels.

We need to let our kids be kids again, so our children can grow into confident and able adults.

4) Creativity

It is well known that play encourages creativity. But, what exactly does this mean?

Play helps children grow and develop their imagination as they have to be innovative and think outside the box when they play. If a child is given building blocks to play with every day, it is unlikely they will build the same thing every day. They have to get creative and find new things to build and new ways to play.

When kids are flexible with their thinking they can create amazing scenarios and activities using the resources available to them.

Children being creative during play

5) Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is essentially how children learn to think and use reason. When children play, they exercise those higher cognitive functions like critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making.

A child development expert, Dr. Jacqueline Harding, has stated that when children play, neural pathways are formed which actually lay the foundation for future learning.

Providing your child with fun and engaging cognitive activities is a great way to help develop these play-formed neural connections.

6) Motor skills

When children are engaged in play they are developing both their gross and fine motor skills.

Gross motor movements use those larger muscle groups in your arms, legs, and torso. These motor skills are developed through activities like running, jumping, hopping, and throwing.

When children use those tiny muscles in their hands and fingers for activities like drawing, writing, or cutting, they are working on fine motor development. These skills tend to be more difficult for young children to master but they are a necessary pre-writing skill.

Improving motor skills during play

7) Bonding Time

Lastly, play-based learning provides a great opportunity for parents and caregivers to bond with their children while helping them learn new things.

Studies have shown that children whose parents participate in their pretend play have greater self-control, creativity, working memory, and leadership skills.

There are so many amazing benefits of learning through play! Even though today’s society is filled with structured and planned activities, try to carve out a little time every day to ensure your child is getting all the wonderful things that play has to offer!

The 8 Best Learning Through Play Activities

Play-based learning activities help young children strengthen their understanding of the world around them by exploring through hands-on experiences.

Here are 8 fun and easy activities to help your child learn through play:

1) Playdough

Whether you want to make your own or buy some at your local store, playdough is a great activity to improve your child’s fine motor skills.

It can also be used as a therapeutic tool. Research shows that playing with playdough can ease tensions and reduce stress in children.

2) Construction Play

Building blocks or other construction toys offer many great benefits to your child’s development.

Through this type of play, children develop spatial awareness, logical reasoning, and patience. It also helps with cognitive functions like critical thinking and problem-solving.

Benefits of learning through play

3) Free Art

The importance of arts and crafts in child development should not be overlooked. Allowing a child to draw, paint, cut, and paste without an end goal is a great cognitive activity that encourages a healthy development.

When kids have this type of freedom, they use more complex cognitive abilities like planning, hypothesizing, and decision-making to get the outcome they want.

4) Pretend Play

Pretend play is a great way for children to express their understanding of the “adult world”. Whether they are pretending to be a cashier or acting as a doctor, pretend play is a great opportunity for them to engage in social interactions and improve their communication skills.

Of course, this type of play will also enhance their creativity and imagination, which is a key component of child development.

Pretend play as a learning through play activity

5) Sensory Play

Allowing children to play with water, sand, or even dry rice can help them learn in many different ways. Playing with these materials helps them use their five senses to explore, create, and discover new things.

Sensory play also helps children to learn about basic math and science concepts. This is especially true if they have various tools like funnels, or measuring cups to play with.

6) Music and Dance

Dancing is a great activity to help improve physical activity and coordination.

If children are learning specific dances like the Electric Slide, they are also improving their listening and understanding skills.

Recently, a lot of research has been done examining the effects of music on childhood development. A study done in 2016 found that music can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas responsible for language development and reading skills.

7) Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is a great place to start for parents looking to incorporate more play into their day. Apart from being an outlet for physical activity, outdoor play helps children to learn and explore their environment.

Children also learn the very basics of biology which helps them develop respect for their environment.

8) Free Play

This is arguably the best type of activity to help your child learn and develop through play.

When children initiate play time, they are rapidly developing their creativity, social skills, and cognitive abilities. As adults take a step back, children can focus all their attention on their favorite activities to help them learn at their own pace.

Free play provides so many amazing benefits. We must allow kids the time to play so they can develop to their fullest potential.

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Play in Child Development 

There is a famous quote from Ignacio Estrada that says, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”.

Play should be an integral part of your child’s learning process as it encourages creativity, cognitive and language development, confidence, emotional regulation and so much more!

Not only does learning through play provide key benefits for your child’s development, but it also creates beautiful moments between you and your little one which will last forever! So don’t forget – let your kids play! They’ll thank you later!

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