The concept of learning through play has long been widely recognised for its role in a child’s development. It helps build self-confidence and understand what they can achieve and the environment around them. As it is a “fun” activity, their attention span will be far longer, and as such, they frequently become incredibly absorbed in the activity. Play is essential in early year’s development, but it also provides the foundations for their future learning.
As the leading international kindergarten in Bangkok, we believe that play should form an integral part of a child’s learning. Indeed, it forms a significant portion of our daily activities. We introduce different forms of play into our daily routines to ensure that the child develops a full complement of skills. Play is incredibly powerful and helps build the child’s language skills, social skills and creativity as well as making them more emotionally aware.
Why do children enjoy play?
Children enjoy play because it’s fun! They can explore their imagination and go on adventures and their own voyage of discovery. Through play, they will learn some of life’s essential skills such as problem-solving, working with and understanding others, the concept of sharing and empathy, as well as so much more. As children enjoy play, they find it easier to focus and be less affected by distractions which, in turn, aids the learning process.
What playthings can be used to help children learn?
There are a wide range of everyday items and objects that can be used to assist with learning. Some of the most frequently used in a classroom environment include:
- Water and sand – Children will quickly understand that water is not a solid, and both water and sand can be poured into different sized containers in a measuring exercise. It introduces some basic maths and science into their early learning.
- Pencils, paints and clay – These are all readily available items and can be used to encourage creativity. The child will use their imagination to “create” things, which, with the right encouragement, will boost their confidence.
- Dressing up, dolls, and soft toys – Dressing up will again encourage children to use their imagination, especially if they dress up with others, can turn the play into role-playing. Dolls and soft toys can be used to promote expressions of feelings.
- Building blocks and jigsaws – These can help gain a sense of order and put things in the right place. It enhances several aspects of cognitive behaviour and helps to build the idea of using logic.
- Sporting activities – Any sporting activities that involve the use of balls, dancing, running or climbing will help to improve coordination, core strength and flexibility, all of which are essential in terms of physical development. Sporting activities also encourage teamwork and the idea of sharing.
- Music – Music in every form, such as listening to music, playing music or singing, all help children to develop their listening skills and a sense of rhythm.
Teachers and parents should avoid becoming too pushy when it comes to play. It must remain fun, and while gentle encouragement is fine, it can become counter-productive if a child feels pressured. Remember, children, learn by copying others and learning for themselves. All of the senses need to be explored, so it is normal for painting to be done without a brush! Show children pictures, read books and encourage them to understand words. As they get older, be prepared to answer lots of “why’s”, but you must recognise that this is an integral part of the learning process.
It’s important to “set the scene”
Younger children can become bored very quickly if they have to wait for things to be set up or activities aren’t ready. As parents or teachers, it is important to set the scene early. It might be as straightforward as making time and space where on other occasions you may need to put resources in play such as sand, building blocks or other games. If dressing up is to be involved, you should set the ball rolling with an idea and then let the child take that initial idea where they want using their imagination.
However, making time for unstructured and spontaneous play is also essential, but you should expect to become involved to keep the play flowing. Play allows children to burn excess energy, which can help with behaviour whilst also encouraging them to use their imagination which develops motor skills and self-expression.
The role of role-play!
Role-play is sometimes referred to as dramatic play and is beneficial in a range of different way. It helps develop social skills and emotional awareness but can also help with their physical development. Acting can indirectly form a vital role in a child’s development as it can be a form of copying or pretending to be something else. It helps children understanding things from a different perspective, and they can “test” reactions and situations.
Imagination is something that all children are born with, and it should always be encouraged and nurtured. If you think about your own child, how often do they pretend to talk to someone on the phone or drive a car? The use of the imagination has a close association with intellectual intelligence.
All young children should be encouraged to explore, and in the main, this should be outdoors. They will experience new things, changing environments and different situations on a daily basis. They will use all their senses, known as multi-sensory learning, which helps develop gross motor skills. Exploring may incorporate role-play, creative play and messy play, but whichever form it comes in, it is an essential element of the learning cycle.
Did you find our article interesting?
We hope you found this article interesting and that it helped explain why play is so crucial in a child’s formative years. Play forms a vital part of our daily routine, but if you would like and help or advice about play, we are always on hand to help and answer any question that they may have. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337 or contact us directly via our website.