Let the children play

Some of you may wonder exactly how children learn through play. Tracey Urquhart explains this for us in the below write up. I found this super interesting and I am…

Some of you may wonder exactly how children learn through play. Tracey Urquhart explains this for us in the below write up. I found this super interesting and I am sure you will too.

Let our children play!

The transition from preschool to primary school is a big deal for many children and parents.

These children’s education has so far focused on play-based learning. This means they’ve learnt through exploring and playing, supported by skilled early childhood educators.

But they’re about to enter a world of formal learning. Although play-based learning does happen in schools, there tends to be a stronger focus on instruction.

The current system isn’t working for many students. One-quarter of children who start school aren’t developmentally ready for this transition and levels of mental ill-health among children are concerning.

Many educators and researchers argue more play in the early years of school could better support children’s transition and learning.

Parents are often of the opinion that no learning has taken place because there was no piece of paper brought home that day.

In a recent survey in Finland 93% of parents acknowledge the benefits of play and 72% said the first years of school should focus more on play-based learning. Finland has the highest academic success rate over the past 10 years.

They do not believe in hours of homework and focus on weaker children.

If we’re genuinely committed to improving outcomes for all children – and we know play benefits learning – we need to better integrate play-based learning into schools’ formal learning structures.

How do we learn through play?

Increasing play-based learning in schools means changing how we think about playing. When many of us think about play, we probably think of free play, which is unstructured and directed by children, usually without adult involvement.

Play-based learning, though, is more usefully conceived as a spectrum, with free play at one end and teacher-guided, playful learning at the other. In between are a variety of methods either entirely based on play, or incorporating, for example, a skilled educator helping children to discover new ideas when they play with water. The educator might encourage children to playfully experiment with water tubs and toys in a way that allows them to develop their own hypotheses about how water behaves in certain situations and why. The educator could work with the children to test their hypotheses, questioning and talking to them about what they observe during their play. Play-based learning in the early years of school can significantly improve childrens language and social connections. Research shows the impact of how play-based learning extends into other areas of development.

High-quality play-based learning can:

  • Strengthen neural pathways associated with learning
  • Enhance well-being
  • Improve memory and organisational abilities
  • Teach children self-regulation and problem-solving skills
  • Encourage creativity and critical thinking

Quality depends on warm and responsive relationships with skilled educators and an environment that facilitates exploration and learning. It also involves a developmentally appropriate learning program.

The skills children learn through play equip them to engage with formal, academic learning. When children start to develop and harness these skills, research shows they’re better able to cope with the demands of formal learning and thrive later on in school.

Research has shown that 70% of children don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity, and so play is essential.

Let us support the incorporation of play-based learning that takes place at school, by following through with it at home. Chat to your school and ask for ideas on how to do this at home. This will not only benefit your child for the reasons listed above but also benefit the relationship you have with your child as you will now be directly involved in the how’s and why’s of how things work.

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