Learning Through Play

Learn Through Play

Did you know, through research carried out over the past 30 years, scientists have determined the most important period of human development is from birth to eight years old.

Children learn critical skills and will build self worth by developing a sense of their own abilities. Children develop such skills as problem solving, cause and effect, interaction, problem solving and even conflict resolution.

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When children choose to play, they are not thinking “Now I am going to learn something from this activity.” Yet their play creates powerful learning opportunities across all areas of development. Development and learning are complex and holistic, and yet skills across all developmental domains can be encouraged through play, including motor, cognitive and social and emotional skills. Indeed, in playful experiences, children tap a breadth of skills at any one time. Often this occurs during ‘corner play’ or ‘centre time’ in the context of early learning or pre-primary programs. Corner play, when well planned, promotes child development and learning competencies more effectively than any other pre-primary activity. By choosing to play with the things they like to do, children actually develop skills in all areas of development: intellectual, social, emotional and physical.

For example, while children are playing, they can try out new social skills (e.g., sharing toys, agreeing on how to work together with materials), and they often take on some challenging cognitive tasks (such as figuring out how to make a building with smaller blocks when the larger ones are not available). Children are ‘hands-on’ learners. They acquire knowledge through playful interaction with objects and people. They need a lot of practice with solid objects to understand abstract concepts.

By playing with geometric blocks they understand the concept that two squares can form a rectangle and two triangles can form a square. From dancing a pattern such as step forward, step back twirl, clap and repeat, they begin to understand the features of patterns that are the foundation for mathematics. Pretend or ‘symbolic’ play (such as playing house or market) is especially beneficial: in such play, children express their ideas, thoughts and feelings, learn how to control their emotions, interact with others, resolve conflicts and gain a sense of competence.

Play sets the foundation for the development of critical social and emotional knowledge and skills. Through play, children learn to forge connections with others, and to share, negotiate and resolve conflicts, as well as learn self-advocacy skills. Play also teaches children leadership as well as group skills. Furthermore, play is a natural tool that children can use to build their resilience and coping skills, as they learn to navigate relationships and deal with social challenges as well as conquer their fears, for example through re-enacting fantasy heroes.

More generally, play satisfies a basic human need to express imagination, curiosity and creativity, which are key resources in a knowledge-driven world. They help us to cope, to find pleasure, and to use our imaginative and innovative powers. Indeed, the critical skills that children acquire through play in the preschool years form part of the fundamental building blocks of future complex “21st -century skills”

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