How children learn through play
Young children are learning and developing quickly. They are playing, learning and experimenting. They are also beginning to get a sense of their own identity and how they may be different from others, such as noticing boys and girls. Some children benefit from being at a nursery or playgroup at this age. Organized activities help develop their learning in an informal setting. In turn, this is preparing them for more formal school life. Cultural identity is important. Children need to have people around them that they can identify with and who have an understanding of their cultural and ethnic background.
How do young children learn?
Children learn through all their senses by:
- tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling
- watching and copying people close to them they learn language and behavior
Learning 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:
- Sand and water play can be an early introduction to science and maths, eg learning that water is fluid, not solid, and that it can be measured in different sized containers.
- Playing with dough, drawing and painting pictures, dressing up, playing with dolls can encourage creativity, imagination and expression of feelings.
- Building blocks, jigsaws and shape sorters can help with recognizing different shapes and sizes, putting things in order and developing logic.
- Playing ball games, dancing, and running, climbing all help to develop body movement, strength, and flexibility and co-ordination skills.
- Games help with turn taking, sharing and mixing with others.
- Singing, playing simple music instruments help to develop rhythm, listening and hearing.
What is the importance of play for pre-school children?
Anyone who spends any amount of time with pre-school children understands that providing them with opportunities for play provides so much more than a few minutes or hours of ‘fun’. Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develops social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self-expression.
‘Many children seem to be born with a natural ability to play, but some children find it more difficult and need to ‘learn’ how to play well and this is where parents can make a big difference. Whilst it is very important that children play with their peers and are given opportunities for unstructured play, children who also play with a loved adult can benefit greatly – the benefits of having fun together cannot be underestimated!’
Benefits Of Play & How Children Learn Through Play
Emotional benefits include…
- enjoyment, fun, love of life
- relaxation, release of energy, tension reduction
Developmental benefits include…
- abstract thinking
- social cognition, empathy, perspective-taking
- mastering new concepts
- anxiety reduction
- therapeutic effects
- conflict resolution
- leadership skill development (control of impulses and aggressive behavior)
- gross motor experiences
- fine motor experiences
- physical challenges
- self-help skills
- attention regulation
- communication skills
- story telling
- emergent literacy
Educational benefits include…
- providing a meaningful context for children to learn concepts and skills;
- making learning fun and enjoyable;
- encouraging children to explore and discover together and on their own;
- allowing children to extend what they are learning;
- encouraging children to experiment and take risks;
- providing opportunities for collaborative learning with adults and peers;
allowing for the practice of skills.
About the Author
Mr. Ankur Gupta - Director, Playgro Toys India Pvt. Ltd.