Play & Childhood are like Salt & Pepper: Why play is important at home and in childcare centres

21 May 2019

Do you underestimate the importance of play in your child's life? Children are born to learn through play. The benefits of play are incomparable to any other learning method.

Similar to how an adult’s career is their work, a child’s playroom is their work! Through play and interactive environments, a child is problem-solving, creating new ideas, developing skills and understanding practical situations.

Living in a society where technology has become a crucial part of the every-day life cycle, the traditional methods of play can be hard to find. Long gone are the outdoor games; hopscotch, marbles, kickball, almost seem like a myth.

Despite the endless list of positivity that technology brings about, it is extremely important for children to be exposed to play-based learning both at home and within their child-care centre. It allows them to interact with the real world when they play, learning from what they see by their educators, parents and family.

A common saying that many make is “if you can teach it, you can understand it.” This same principle applies to a child when they are engaging in play. Play teaches what they have learned, as they are practising what they see, making them understand concepts in a thorough way.

Childcare centres have the answers: Play-based learning explained

Children are not born to engage in critical thinking and discuss solutions for world peace. They are programmed to learn and absorb what they see and hear from 0-6 years old, and using this they develop the basis of their personality.

“Learning through play happens through joyful, actively engaging, meaningful, iterative, and socially interactive experiences”  Lego Foundation

Play-based learning builds on this idea of learning and absorbing in the context of a playful and positive learning environment.

Learning through play allows for a child to explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in creative ways, and enhances these particular skills both at home and in childcare facilities.

There are various types of play that can insinuate learning:

  • Free play: This is child-led play, giving children the freedom to lead their play activities.
  • Guided play: This is child-led and adult scaffolded meaning that an adult demonstrates the activity through play, and allows the child to attempt it his/her self, through guidance.  
  • Direct instruction: This is adult designed and controlled, and have set constraints for the activity, limiting creativity as it is programmed learning.  
  • Games: These are adult designed, have set rules and have limitations to ‘play.’

A play-based learning approach involves learning instigated by the child or supported learning through parents or educators at childcare facilities. When a child decides to play on their own with no instruction, it gives them the freedom to explore and discover and with little constraints. We have no objections to this type of play.

This is known as unstructured, uninterrupted play. Typically defined as the “old fashioned” way of playing, this type of play allows children to use whatever materials they like, not interrupting the way they play or showing them the correct way of doing so.

“Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered himself, that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely.” Jean Piaget

However, this does not just happen all on its own. The surrounding environments that a child is placed in can heavily influence their learning patterns, including the materials available. The inclusion of various shapes, textures and colours can promote creative, independent thinking. This is simply through the exposure of the child in such a positive learning setting.  

Play-based learning is beneficial whether it is guided or by a child's free will. Both of these methods allow children to develop skills and reach particular learning goals.

The role of adults both at home and at childcare centres

If the child is engaging in play-based learning, adults can be incorporated within the process. An adult has the responsibility of providing materials that children may like, provoking questions and providing them with a challenge.

As an adult, it is sometimes difficult to avoid showing a child how to carry out a particular task. However, this is key to remember. Guide but do not show. This allows them to help reach a conclusion on their own, developing key skills. Be their number one support and help them reach decisions independently.

The role of children both at home and at childcare centres

When a child is engaging in play-based activities, they have the role in using their own imagination to create their own intentions, further developing their cognitive instincts.

When relevant and appropriate, it is also important for a child to decide when they want to stop playing, when they want to eat or when they need to have a break. This allows them to make their own decisions and take initiative.

Skills developed through play both at home and in childcare centres

Skill Importance
Coping skills Play-based learning helps children experience difficult situations that they have to overcome, and assists in helping them understand how to deal with different situations.
Sharing & Cooperation Engaging in play-based activities teaches children how to engage with others, share and cooperate as a team. These are skills that they will take on with them through to adulthood.
Resilience This teaches children how to recover quickly after things go wrong. Life is not perfect, and this is a key skill a child needs to develop.
Making Mistakes Everybody makes mistakes, but the key is moving on from them and developing them into a learning experience. Teaching children how mistakes are not necessarily bad, can be positive. They can guide them into making better decisions in the future.
Creativity Sparking creativity from a young age through play-based learning can encourage independent thinking. This is highly valued when these children reach adulthood, kick-starting their career as 21st-century thinkers.
Personality development Play-based learning helps a child understand who they are and how they want to act in particular situations, allowing them to develop unique individual personalities, embracing their differences.

“We see playful experiences as optimal for engaging in this type of deeper learning” Lego Foundation

Play-time can occur in many different environments, including both at home and within a child-care facility. However, child care centres play a significant role in regards to a child’s play-based learning experiences. Their designs and facilities are dictated by the sole purpose of developing children.

It is important for parents to understand that child care facilities incorporate simple everyday tasks such as playing with water, banging pots and pans or taking walks outside, to infuse life skills into children. These can help stimulate their learning as well as form connections in their ever-growing brains.

At Young Academics, we aim to provide all children with the freedom to engage in play-based activities both guided and uninterrupted. This promotes their engagement within other learning activities and allows them to develop independence.

Want to know more about play-based learning and how we incorporate them within our day? Call us now on 1300 668 993 to learn more!

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