Worrying about your child’s educational development is part of being a parent. In truth, most of the time, parents tend to worry too much about their children. There’s only so much a young child can take on, and you don’t need to be panicking about anything at that age.
As your child grows, there are new things you can start to look toward to help to broaden their educational horizons. This isn’t so much a solution to a problem as a chance to really maximize your child’s potential, something that a lot of parents are eager to do. One way to do that is to incorporate ‘play’ into learning (or vice versa) in a way that can really make a significant impact to your child’s whole approach to learning.
Understanding Play-Based Learning
Play-based learning is using your child’s natural instincts for curiosity, excitement, building and running around (the elements of playing, essentially) and harnessing them for their education.
The learning style is child-initiated, meaning it complements whatever the child is doing. If they are pulling leaves off a tree then you can ask them questions that prompt them to think inquisitively about nature or the life cycle, for example.
What Can Children Learn Through It?
Play-based learning helps encourage communication skills. We take this for granted as adults but a lot of an individual’s potential for the communication of thought is developed when they are very young. Play-based learning requires communication and development of that vital skill.
It also develops creativity and the use of the imagination. Children connecting the act of playing to the act of exploration and interrogation can breed positive associations about the use of the imagination.
It also enhances social skills. Playing is often a social activity that requires multiple people to be engaged at once. It’s no surprise that companies invest in team-building games to help improve social connections since it is an accelerant for better communication and inter-connected learning.
Finally, play can help children to think laterally about things. When they look at a block, their instinctive question is “can I place another one on this block?” But if you are asking them about the nature of the block itself as independent from the playset, and other tangential questions, it expands the path of their reasoning.
The Benefits of Play Learning
Learning through play also helps to create positive associations with the act of learning. This will also prove to be invaluable as the child gets into a traditional school environment and will be needing to see the value of learning that is distinctive from play.
Ideas for Play-Based Learning
1. Use toy sets that represent real spaces. For example, using a doll house or a farm kit, or a village set will get your child focusing on real life concepts and allow you to walk them through objects and animals that they will be able to match to real life.
2. Invite friends over to enhance the social aspect of the play, and reinforce ideas of communal learning.
3. Play in nature and use the opportunity to teach them the beginnings of biology and scientific reasoning.
4. Cook with them. Show them what heating food does to change its state and help them to understand the origins of different foods.
There are significant benefits to learning through play that can really help to shape your child’s educational outlook from early on. It’s never going to be too much for them because it is what they instinctively do anyway. It’s simply a smart way to build from that.
Valerie Caswell is an educational researcher at Gum Essays and Lucky Assignments. She enjoys reading and writing on different aspects of education and educational practice. Her viewpoint is that it is never too late to learn, and encourages professionals of all ages to develop themselves.
A note from ThinkFun
At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.
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