We often say that young children learn through play. We say that play is children’s work. What does research tell us young children gain through play?
Play is one of the main ways in which children learn. It helps to build self-worth by giving a child a sense of his or her own abilities and to feel good about themselves. Because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing. In turn, this helps them develop the ability to concentrate. Providing children with a range of playthings will help them learn in a number of ways.
Example: Sand and water play can be an early introduction to science and maths, learning that water is fluid, not solid, and that it can be measured in different sized containers.
Play allows children the opportunity to develop speech and language skills as well listening skills. Children talk and listen while they play. Whether this be during solitary play which typically involves self-talk and narration or play with a companion, children communicate to add purpose to their play. The more vocabulary a child is exposed to on a day-to-day basis, the greater the variety of words a child will incorporate into play.
Children who engage in pretend play tend to have more sophisticated levels of interaction with others. Moreover, if children are deprived of play, their long-term capabilities related to problem solving, social skills and academic areas (e.g. literacy, math and science) could be lessened. The complexity of these skills demonstrate that many areas of the brain are most likely involved.
Keep reading to know about some amazing activities that encourage your child to learn through play.
- Dress-Up and Role Play
Let the children loose with a bunch of dressing-up clothes and props such as toy doctor’s kits, and let their imaginations run wild. Soon you’ll discover the budding doctor, vet, nurse, astronaut, chef or thespian. Dressing-up helps children to begin to make sense of the adult world, roles, and interests, as well as boosting social interaction.
- Drawing and Painting
Letting children run wild with paints and drawing tools allows them to experience their world in a sensory way and develop self-expression, whilst also developing pre-writing skills.
- Play Dough
Play dough has immense potential for learning. Not only does it strengthen fingers in preparation for a lifetime of writing, it teaches fine motor skills, creativity, and hand-eye coordination.
- Running, Jumping, Climbing, Swinging
Young children have a compulsion to move. Allowing them to do so, and providing safe and age-appropriate challenges, allows them to increase their confidence as well as develop their resilience through risk-taking.
- Basic Board Games
There are so many board games available for even the youngest players, and these should be embraced, not only for their fun factor, but for their learning potential.
- Music, Dancing, and Singing
Singing and music hugely help to develop language and form the basis of literacy skills, as well as basic mathematical concepts such as counting. Furthermore, they begin to develop rhythm, whilst also refining their listening skills. Dancing helps the child develop strength and coordination, and flexibility.