Imagine a learning model where creativity and imagination come alive. A method that stimulates young minds and helps to create memories that last a lifetime. That’s learning through play (play-based learning).
Learning through play helps develop children mentally, emotionally, and practically as they grow. As children play they get hands-on experiences that will spark their natural curiosity and encourage the growth of their imagination.
There are many different kinds of play that provide unique benefits. In this article, I will mention a few of these plays, the benefit of learning through play, and its disadvantage.
What is Learning Through Play?
Learning Through Play or play-based learning is the term used to describe a carefully planned curriculum that provides children with fun and exciting activities in which they learn and explore while they play.
Learning Through Play is the process of aligning play with the learning of children. It is when you create a space, experience, or setup that allows children to explore their learning goals.
This could be dramatic play, an art activity, free play, or any other type of play that you like to do with your children
Through play, children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments. This is the most effective kind of learning there is.
Creative, imaginative, and fun, it also helps children learn in ways they really enjoy.
5 Elements of Learning Through Play
1. It must be unstructured
Learning through play is an unstructured method of learning. It is purposeful, child-centered, and based on the interest of the child. Play has a vital role in helping a child grow and develop the necessary skills they need to survive in life.
An important element of learning through play is that children have to initiate it themselves. It must be unstructured and open-ended. This allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.
2. It must be enjoyable
Laughter and joy are synonymous with play. For younger children, active games where they can run around and play in the dirt are perfect. For older children, traditional toys like a dollhouse or set of building blocks will keep them laughing and engaged.
Learning through play is enjoyable for both children and adults, it creates a positive environment for all.
Children will engage with the learning process when the activity is appealing to them, and adults will enjoy supporting their child’s learning if the activity is fun.
3. It must be self-chosen
Learning through the play model is self-chosen and self-directed, although adults may facilitate, initiate or provide materials for play; it is not directed by adults or forced upon children.
Child-directed play is just that—what the child decides to do, with whom, where, and for how long. The adult’s role is to determine if the environment is safe and create invitations for children to engage in activities.
4. It must be process-oriented
Being “process-oriented” means that the person doing the learning decides how to do it, and learns from that process. It’s less about getting to a specific destination and more about the journey itself.
Activities are open-ended, self and teacher-initiated and the emphasis is on “learning through the process”.
Children learn through every experience they have, so when they are playing they are also learning — even if what they are learning is not directly related to academic skills or the future job market.
5. It must be make-believe
As a child, the imagination can run rampant with ideas and stories, leading to some great memories.
Make-believe is one of the simplest elements of learning through play, but even more importantly, it is comprised of essential building blocks for educated decision-making later in life.
What are the Benefits of Learning Through Play?
1. Play Foster Effective Communication
In addition to building skilled play itself, learning through play gives a good foundation for skills that form the basis for the child’s future interactions with his or her peers.
By playing, children can begin to develop their ability to communicate not just with words but also through actions and reactions.
Since play is enjoyable, children will naturally engage in it. During dramatic play, children will use a wide range of methods to convey their ideas and feelings through imaginative play.
For example, when playing together, two children can express emotions, and share anecdotes as well as emotions, such as ease and enthusiasm. All of these are vital in several aspects of life in the future.
2. It Helps Develop Social Skills
Educational play helps children to develop social skills. Playing with other children gives them the opportunity to learn from others and how to socialize with peers. Play allows children to listen, talk, negotiate and interact in an enjoyable way.
Learning through play allows for the free exchange of ideas, and the building of friendships, games, and playing is an excellent entry point for learning about teamwork, problem-solving, and even empathy.
3. It Helps Develop Cognitive, Critical Thinking, & Motor Skills
Developing skills and learning through play can be very beneficial to a child as they grow up. Play helps your child develop cognitive skills, including critical thinking, coordination, creativity, and more to help them navigate the world around them.
The movement, sounds, and materials of a toy train are great for getting a child moving and are also important building blocks for future math and science learning.
4. It Creates Confidence In Children
Beyond the fun factor for children, there are many other great benefits of play. Many of these benefits have long-term effects throughout a person’s life. Playing creates opportunities that put their minds and bodies to use, which builds self-esteem and confidence in children.
They gain confidence as they overcome challenges and learn how to play with other children. This confidence can help them in many areas of life, including school, work, social interactions, and home life.
5. It Encourages Relationship Building
One of the most important benefits of play is that it brings people together. Even if your child is playing alone with a puzzle, they could eventually meet other children in their community who will get together to play, such as at a park or during after-school activities.
Learning through play encourages social interaction and brings children who’re strangers together. Not only will this help them to be more approachable as they’re becoming adults, but it can lead to friends for life.
6. It Inspires Creativity
Kids love to play, and play brings out their natural creativity. It’s a primal instinct that lets them connect, explore, and learn. And there’s nothing like the joy of a child having fun and playing with his or her imagination.
Children learn to become creative thinkers through play. As they create their own stories and experiences, children are able to develop stronger creative minds. Imagine your child telling a story they made up in their backyard or on their favorite playground.
What are the Disadvantages of Learning Through Play?
- Play can take up a lot of time
- Lack of control over the child
- There may be feedback loop issues
- Appropriate toys are not available to all children
- They don’t get to learn at the same pace as other children
Does Learning Through Play Support Children’s Development?
Play is an important activity for children, and it can support healthy development. Not only does it give young people a chance to be creative and use their imagination, but it can also support children’s growth in the following areas:
1. Cognitive Development
Learning through play is a great way to promote cognitive development in children with activities that encourage curiosity and exploration.
The power of play is undeniable. Toys for example foster creativity and develop fine and gross motor skills.
According to the University of Missouri Extension, learning through play—whether with puzzles, blocks, or dress-up clothes—promotes cognitive development in children by encouraging them to explore new ideas, discover their own solutions, test out different scenarios, take risks, and make mistakes.
2. Physical Development
Play supports the physical development of children and gives them freedom of choice through play’s unique style of learning. The concept of play is itself developmental.
Through play, children discover the tools they need to find meaning in the world and to make sense of it using their bodies, minds, and imaginations.
In fact, research shows that children who learn through play are better able to perform activities as adults that require physical abilities like running, jumping, and throwing.
3. Social-Emotional Development
There are numerous benefits of high-quality pretend play and it has been proven that children who engage in such play do better socially and emotionally.
This type of social and emotional learning through play supports children’s development, creates relationships between children, strengthens friendships, and helps children learn to problem-solve.
Learning Through Play VS. Academic Learning
You may have heard that rather than academics, you should teach your children via play. The fact is that both elements must be present in order for children to learn.
It is true though that the style of learning differs depending on the age and maturity level of a child. By observing a child, parents can tell what type of learning environment will produce the best results for their particular child.
The learning revolution has been happening over the last few decades and educators are always looking for ways to stimulate this revolution. There are two main approaches to learning, play, and academics.
A child learns through play by experimenting and experiencing the world around them, it is how they learn the natural environment around them.
A child’s mind is a sponge waiting to absorb everything in its path. The academic approach takes a different approach.
Academic learning focuses on the use of a structured curriculum to achieve certain learning goals. Both methods have their advantages, but there should also be a balance between the two as achieving this will allow children to learn effectively.
Teachers should also have an understanding of how each method works as it will help them know how best to work with their students in their respective classroom environments.
Examples of Learning Through Play Activities
- Water Play
- Table-Top Toys
- Listening to Stories
- Simple Group Games
Learning Through Play: FAQs
What skills can a child learn through play?
The benefits of learning through play are many: it brings excitement to childhood and teaches life skills, like patience in waiting for a turn and sharing.
It builds confidence, teaches teamwork, and how to ‘lose’ or cope with failure – an important part of life.
Finally, play helps children develop cognitive and verbal skills alongside their fine motor skills.
Is learning through play effective?
Children’s play is more than just fun.
Research shows that play is a critical component of healthy development, helping children learn important skills to help them succeed in the future.
When exercising their imaginations and playing with others children are developing their problem-solving and language skills.
Do kids learn faster through play?
Learning specialists believe children learn quickly through play.
Whether they’re chewing on toys, hearing their parents talk, or playing with others, kids are collecting the raw materials to power their growing brains.
Learning Through Play: Conclusion
Children learn more effectively through play than through education.
While this may sound like an exaggeration, children’s brains are hardwired for positive moods and positive experiences which correlate with higher levels of performance in a variety of areas ranging from intelligence and creativity to persistence and achievement motivation.
This type of learning is highly effective in the early years because children are natural explorers.
Activities that promote learning through play provide stimulation to nurture children’s minds and bodies, introduce them to new ideas and give them a sense of independence.
Other effective learning methods you may want to explore include Discovery Learning, Insight Learning, Mastery Learning, and Game-Based Learning.
I will encourage you to check out these learning models as they’re effective for both parents and teachers to help children develop the necessary skills they need to succeed in life.
I hope you found this article helpful.
Thanks for reading.