Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”Mr. Rogers
When we think of learning we might imagine a pile of books, writing utensils, and a nicely organized desk. While desk-learning and explicit instruction is a component of education, play is a critical part of childhood learning, especially in the elementary grades. There is a vast amount of research on play-based learning and I will mention just a few findings that stand out:
- Children learn best when
- they take an active role in their learning environment
- they are engaged
- the information is meaningful to them
- there is a social context
In other words, children learn best when they are engaged, mentally active, and social. These are all characteristics that are central to play, but absent or very diluted in online learning for younger children.
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”Albert Einstein
- Neuroscientists have found that play activates the brain in important ways that memorization, testing, and worksheets that are traditionally used in classrooms do not.
- play is a necessary component of brain development
- play supports young children in developing critical thinking skills, memory, and learning to understand cause and effect relationships
- play encourages exploration and curiosity
Einstein even proclaimed that “play is the highest form of research”.
The best classroom and the richest cupboard is only roofed by the sky.”Margaret McMillan (c1925)
Physical activity in play is especially important. In their formative years, children are continually playing and are in constant motion which improves brain elasticity and allows them to learn more easily. The part of the brain that processes movement also processes learning. So when students are sitting still, learning is actually hindered rather than enhanced.
Harvard Health gives you 6 reasons children need to play outside
Social and Emotional Benefits
When playing together, children learn respect for rules, self-discipline, control of aggression, practice leadership, and resolve conflicts. Play helps children to develop emotionally and reduce stress. When children do not play, it can have negative, lasting effects. Studies show that when children do not have a chance to play out in nature, they are at a higher risk for attention and behaviour problems, as well as increased stress.
Play is fundamentally important to learning 21st century skills such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity.”American Academy of Pediatrics
How can you add play into your child’s day?
Children thrive when they can play. What are some of the things you can do during this pandemic time to help your child through play?
- Free Play builds self-esteem and motivation
- children who are isolated indoors are often under close supervision, scrutiny, and correction
- remedy for this is free play without structure and rules
- free play allows children the opportunity to make decisions and take risks
- Open-ended object play rather than video games
- building blocks such as Keva planks or Lego allow children to form a foundation for STEM skills
- Rough and Tumble play helps to relieve stress. Being confined in a small space can result in frustration and anger.
- physical rough and tumble play helps to release stress and also provides and outlet for anger
- Pretend and dramatic play helps children to develop social skills.
- playing with dolls and stuffy toys uses the same brain regions as when children are playing with other children.
- allows children to practice empathy and other emotions
- Board games
- playing board games allows children to focus on doing the right thing at the right time
- helps to train executive function skills
For more visit The Genius of Play