Learning through play is a term used in education and psychology to describe how a child can learn to make sense of the world around them. Through play, children develop problem solving skills and gain the self-confidence required to tackle new problems, experiences and environments.
Play-based learning is a form of learning that is fun and enjoyable. The premise of play-based learning is that children learn best through first-hand experiences when they are active and involved in their learning. Play-based learning involves guidance by a teacher who directs attention to specific elements of the play activity. The teacher can draw parallels between the play activity and a real-world problem, or provide encouragement and feedback on children’s learning.
The purpose of play-based learning is to motivate, stimulate and support their development of skills, concepts, communication skills and concentration. Through play, children are also given opportunities to demonstrate their recent learning, knowledge, skills and competencies, and to consolidate learning.
So how does play complement learning? Here are three reasons.
Did you know? Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child!
1. Play is stimulating
Without the stimulation of play, virtually every aspect of your child’s development will be affected. Play is explorative, imaginative and open-minded. Children get to explore objects, environments, ideas and learn how things function through play. Play helps your child discover his/her interests, limits and special talents. In the process, he/she also learns how to deal with emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear and anger.
Tabletop activities of varying complexity can be used for play, from simple puzzles, Lego pieces and sorting sets to complex robot programming kits. These will aid children’s ability to carry out tasks independently. As these tasks are engaging, it also helps to develop their concentration.
2. Play enhances mental representations
Mental representations are the way in which we create 'copies' of the real things around us which we perceive. For example, our mental representation of a dog involves four legs, fur, living thing, mammal, cute, and perhaps other concepts such as fluffy, cute, and lively. This representation allows us to recognize a dog when we see one.
Play enhances and enriches children’s mental representations. It can help to develop concepts and understand how things and ideas are connected, or provide an additional perspective to an object, idea or concept. For example, it may be difficult to remember a sequence of steps to solve a particular math problem using numbers and words. It is easier if the process is visualized using Lego blocks! [A1] Using play, children’s mental representations are further developed, allowing them to better recall and rely on these representations in solving a problem.
3. Play makes learning enjoyable
Play-based learning is inherently more enjoyable than a traditional classroom setting. It helps children to develop positive attitudes towards learning, while preventing boredom and disengagement. Children naturally love to learn and would do so if given the opportunity to explore and have fun. Play increases his/her willingness to try things out on his/her own.
Play also allows children to challenge each other and engage in friendly competition. Such games and activities are not only engaging and fun, they motivate children to perform better and improve as well.
Bonus reason! Play deepens bonds
Play is a crucial element of deepening and nurturing bonds. By engaging in play together, children and adults are given enriching experiences where they learn to debate, compromise, manage problems and emotions and work as a team. These foster healthy relationships which go a long way in promoting their development and outlook in life.
Play at Polymath Learning Centre
We've talked about the benefits of play and how it can be used to complement learning. But what if we need someone to help us with this?
At Polymath Learning Centre, we adopt an open and encouraging attitude for children to develop self-confidence and mastery in learning through play! By providing a stimulating, open environment, we also allow our children to express his/her interests and concerns. Importantly, we provide the appropriate environment and space for children to play and learn with their teachers, so they have fun and learn at the same time! Besides acquiring knowledge through direct experience, self-exploration and discovery, we believe this also helps them to enjoy their childhood and enhance their overall growth and development.
Curriculum wise, play activities would be integrated into our lessons to complement the learning environment. The specific activities are developmentally appropriate and organised to cater to the children’s individual differences, pace and style in learning. Our play activities focus on symbolic play (to use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas) and games with rules (e.g. fastest-finger-first math quizzes). These are done with an open-minded, explorative atmosphere using our Smart™ board, robot and programming kits, Lego sets and other apparatus.
If you're curious about how we use play as a means for your child to learn, feel free to sign up for a free trial lesson with us today!