Learning takes place all the time at every age. When we tend to learn best is when we are enjoying what we are doing — this goes for adults as well as children!
In Australia, play-based learning is the core of early childhood education. According to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), play-based learning is:
“A context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they actively engage with people, objects and representations”.
What is play?
It is generally accepted that play means to engage in activities for pleasure and enjoyment, rather than undertaking a task for a specific serious purpose or practical outcome. Play is about exploration and fun, making choices and being actively involved.
How children learn through play:
Consider what a child does during play. When children play they engage with a range of different objects and subjects, come up with ideas to direct their play, negotiate and assess risks and benefits, and create meaning through play.
Areas including language development, memory, social development, emotional intelligence, fine motor skills and gross motor skills are all being actively engaged during play. Children are learning and undertaking self-led education by simply taking part in something fun that they are interested in and engaging their curiosity and imagination.
Reasons we love play-based learning. Let’s summarise the six key reasons why play-based learning is so valuable in early childhood education:
- Enhance children’s physical development: Whether it’s running around outside playing ball games, or building something imaginative out of blocks, play creates endless opportunities for children to polish their gross and fine motor skills.
- Build on social and emotional development: While younger babies and children tend to play side by side rather than directly with one another, older children move toward interactive social play. Either way, play provides a solid foundation for building on their social development. Play requires conflict resolution, compromise, and sharing, not to mention the exploration of character relationships in certain types of play such as role play and playing dolls.
- Develop the growing brain: Research indicates that play actually shapes the physical structure of the brain. Play has been found to help the brain reach its full potential for learning as children and later in life too.
- Stimulate children’s creativity: The ability to be creative can help a child with problem-solving, self-expression and emotional intelligence. Play is a goldmine for stimulating creativity! There are endless ways for children to create, explore, discover and rediscover through play.
- Improve language skills and numeracy: Play is fun, but it also requires thinking and communicating. Through play children can become more aware of the power of their communication skills. They can see how words work in different contexts and better understand their use. Counting, numbers, words and symbols can be used in play, and children can see how these have a purpose and can be used in life in many ways.
- A child-centric approach to early childhood education: When we opt for play-based learning, we are empowering the child to be an active participant in their own education and development. Children in play-based learning environments can direct play in a way that is aligned with their own interests, with teachers guiding and facilitating the child’s learning journey.
As play researcher, O. Fred Donaldson said, “Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.” By providing quality play-based learning we support children to be the best they can be, while enjoying learning along the way.
Our Music Kinder at Home Facebook group is full of play-based learning inspiration for children! Join us for plenty of ideas for fun ways to learn through play.