The Role of Play Based Learning in Child Development

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Kids love to play. And there’s a reason for that.

It’s not only natural, but it’s essential for optimal child development.

In fact, play is so important that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognises the right of every child to engage in play time.

Play time is essential for healthy development. And play based learning is a great way to encourage children to use play not only for fun but also as a tool for growth.

At Piptree, we believe that play isn’t just fun. It’s also an art and a science. That’s why we’ve created a curriculum that maximises fun playtime to create a system of learning that propels your child into learning.

Not sure what we mean?

Here’s our guide to play based learning:

What Is Play?

Most of us were told to “go out and play” when we were children. But as we get older, we start to forget what it means to play. It feels foreign because once we reach school age, we’re told to stop “playing around.”

Here’s a quick refresher:

As easy as it was when we were young, playing isn’t a straightforward concept when we’re talking about play based learning.

Researchers believe there are at least 6 different ways for kids to play.

In independent play, kids play by themselves. They figured out how to come up with new ideas, concentrate on problems, and regulate their emotions. Playing alone doesn’t mean a child is anti-social; it’s both normal and important for development.

Parallel play involves playing near but not so much with other kids. This is mostly found among children between 1 and 3 years old. It teaches observation, peer regulation, independence, and how to work with others.

Cooperative play is play among a larger group attempting to achieve a wider goal.

Sensory motor play involves using motor skills and sense to play. Playing in the dirt, as much as we love to clean it up, is one type of sensory play.

Skill mastery play occurs when a child uses the trial and error method to learn a skill by repeating it. Riding a bike, swinging, throwing a ball, and even putting together a simple puzzle are included.

Finally, there is every tired parents’ favourite type of play: rough and tumble. It’s playing with gusto. It doesn’t have to be physical, but it should involve multiple shifts in pace.

How Play Leads to Learning

Understanding that there are different kinds of play is important for understanding how it leads to learning. Each type of play is healthy and important for learning.

Why?

Because play time gives children an opportunity to explore the world around them. They learn to identify new things, emotions, and skills. Kids use play to take risks and learn from them. Play is also used to create meaning.

All of these things are related to cognitive development. It boosts memory skills and language development.

The behavioural aspects are also essential. When combined with the other cognitive benefits, kids’ ability to both work on their own, near other children, and directly with other children boosts their ability to adjust to a structured school environment. This, in turn, improves their ability to fully engage in academic learning.

Play Based Learning: Creating a Program

A play based learning program isn’t all fun and games. Well, it is. But it doesn’t mean children have free reign to do whatever they want all day.

A program for play based learning looks different depending on the hour of the day.

Part of the day may include independent play to encourage the unique benefits associated with playing on one’s own.

Other parts of the day will bring all the children together for group activities. They’ll practice working together. The children also practice sharing both time and objects and taking responsibility for themselves and the world around them.

Teaching the Program

These programs don’t come together on their own. Teachers and adults have an important role in the program.

Most of the time, the adult’s role is less like that of a facilitator and more like a guide. They lead the way for initial play before sidelining themselves. Adults also extend activities to their natural end.

Adults and teachers are also available to evaluate their play to understand what the children are taking away. They then use this information to shape the learning or extend it.

Program Activities

Building activities for play based learning involve designing a program around the problems and questions that children have about the world around them.

Here’s a quick example:

Winters in Australia are rainy. A rainy weekend brings forward an interest in the impact of water on the world around us.

Putting together a water and sand activity is one way we can guide the children through sensory motor play.

Collecting rainwater in various vessels overnight provides ample resources for this activity. The kids can collect the rainwater and use it for lots of activities.

We can add it to sand and ask questions like:

  • Why does wet sand make better castles?
  • What does the sand do when it’s wet?
  • How does sand dry?
  • How does wet sand feel in our hands?
  • How does dry sand feel in our hands?

Here, we’re engaging in problem-solving. We’re learning about the world by exploring sun and rain and building materials. The children are even learning basic physics in a hands-on manner.

Meanwhile, the children are directing their own play and using their creative skills to create their own structures. And most importantly, they’re having fun.

Conclusion

Play is one of the most important parts of any child’s young life.

It sets them up for positive childhood development, prepares them for school, and provides the support they need to develop at their own pace. By using play based learning, we achieve all of these benefits with care.

Our programs are also in line with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

We’d love to welcome you and your child into the Piptree family. Contact us today to visit one of our locations and see what makes Piptree different.

1 reply
  1. All Saints
    All Saints says:

    Definitely an important step in preparing children for school. Play-based learning opens up a child’s curiosity and also help hone their social skills by interacting with other children.

    Reply

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