There is a saying that play is the work of childhood. And it is true! Play is how children learn to grow and interact with the world around them.
The best way to help your child reach their full potential is through play-based learning.
This form of education has proven to benefit children in many ways. Research shows it can even lead to higher academic achievements later in life.
Unfortunately, society has started to move toward more formal ways of teaching young children, even though kids learn best through play.
What is Learning Through Play?
Play-based learning is an approach to education that focuses on providing children with opportunities to explore and learn through hands-on playtime.
It allows children to learn about the world around them by engaging in meaningful experiences that help them to make connections between their own knowledge and the new information they are acquiring.
This type of learning is especially beneficial for early childhood development, as it encourages problem-solving skills and creativity.
The Top 7 Benefits of Learning Through Play
Play-based learning is a great way to encourage a child’s natural curiosity and foster healthy development.
Here are 7 important benefits of play-based learning:
1) Communication and Language Development
Play encourages social interactions, communication, and cooperation between a child and their peers, caregivers, and teachers. Through these interactions, children can expand their vocabulary and learn how to engage in conversation with the people around them.
When engaging in pretend play, children have to negotiate and discuss different points of view. For example, when role-playing as a doctor and a 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.
2) Emotional Regulation
Play can be used as a tool to develop a child’s emotional intelligence by allowing them to process their emotions in a safe and controlled environment. Play allows children to manage their emotions, understand how they feel, and express those feelings appropriately.
Research shows that children who understand their emotions have stronger relationships with peers and caregivers, are able to calm themselves down quicker, have more academic success, and are actually less likely to get sick.
Playtime can be used to help children recognize and explore their strengths, build self-esteem, and increase their overall confidence. Play helps children to make decisions and try different things, as well as learn from mistakes and successes in a supportive environment.
Very simple accomplishments can boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem. If a 3-year-old climbs one step higher on the playground or makes it to one more monkey bar, they will have a great feeling of achievement. The more a child has successful experiences during play, the more confidence they will develop.
It is fairly well known that play allows for creativity. But, what exactly does this mean? Play can help children grow and develop their imagination by creating unique scenarios using the objects around them. Through hands-on play, children are able to use their problem-solving skills and think of creative solutions.
If a child is painting something, they might start mixing different colors to see what happens. Here they are using a creative trial-and-error process and as a result, they learn what happens when different colors are mixed together.
5) Cognitive Development
Play is an essential tool for the healthy development of a child’s brain. Through play, children can exercise their higher cognitive functions like critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making.
If a child wants to build a big tower with blocks, they would probably want to use big blocks. If however, big blocks were not available, the child would have to be innovative and find other resources that would work for a big tower.
6) Motor skills
Play is very good for helping to develop both gross and fine motor skills. When play encourages activities like running, jumping, hopping, or throwing, they are strengthening those large muscle groups that help with gross motor movements.
When children use those tiny muscles in their hands and fingers for activities like drawing, writing, cutting, or using tools, they are working on fine motor development. These skills tend to be more difficult for young children to master.
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.
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 facilitate your child’s learning and development.
Whether you want to make your own or buy some at your local store, playdough is a great activity to help your child improve their fine motor skills.
It can also be used as a therapeutic tool. Research shows that playing with playdough can ease tensions and reduce stress.
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 is also beneficial for critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
3) Free Art
Allowing a child to draw, paint, cut, and glue without guidance from an adult is beneficial for cognitive 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, a child will enhance their creativity and imagination through this type of play which is critical for child development.
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 minds and their hands to explore, create, and discover new things.
Sensory play also helps children to learn about basic math and science concepts. Especially 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, there is also the added benefit of improving their listening and understanding skills.
Recently, a lot of research has shown the effects of music on childhood development. A study done in 2016 concluded 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 play-based learning 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!