Understanding The Importance Of Play
In the past, little thought was given to the importance of play and how it contributed to the developing child, so it is natural that some parents see it as simply a fun activity, a reward, or even a waste of time.
Children learn best through simple playtime which enhances problem solving skills, attention span, social development and creativity.
It is important to facilitate learning through play and provide opportunities for it to happen in a way that the children naturally engage in. The children do not even realise it is happening, and taking advantage of their natural curiosity so that they do not feel forced or overwhelmed but will participate in the activity when ready ensures that learning is built upon at an individualised pace to meet the child’s needs.
Well-planned and well-resourced play activities that allow for progression in a child’s thinking and understanding can provide the context in which the Early Years curriculum principles become reality. There must be a progression in the provision of activities to meet the developmental needs of children, to reflect the observation and assessment of children’s knowledge, skills and attitudes and meet their needs and interests. Incorporating fun themes to children’s learning makes the experience more memorable for them and also less daunting so that they will not feel negativity towards it.
Try and think what you remember from school, what you have learnt from becoming a parent and what was the most beneficial way for you to retain information – did sitting writing under the instruction of a teacher help you prepare for adulthood, or was it the real-life experiences where you developed new skills and understanding? Did reading a parenting book prepare you for changing your child’s nappy perfectly, or was it through the trial and error of practical application?
Learning Through Play
The best way to prepare children for their adult life is to give them what they need as children. Young children learn in an integrated way and not in neat, tidy compartments – concepts such as mathematics and art cannot be separated; for example, painting requires problem solving, pattern making and spatial awareness.
Quality education is about three things: the child, the context in which learning takes place, and the knowledge and understanding which the child develops and learns. When conditions are favourable, all kinds of symbolic behaviour develop and emerge; reading, writing, drawing, dancing, music, algebra, role play, imagination, talking and numbers.
There is a difference between helping a child to learn and pushing a child to learn. Books such as ‘Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn – And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less’ explain how children who are pressured early on do not fare any better than children who are allowed to take their time, and children learn best through simple playtime which enhances problem solving skills, attention span, social development and creativity.
Independent thinking is an important skill encompassed in free play, and enhancing your child’s learning processes through play will give them an incentive to learn.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer