Everyone who works in Early Years has been asked THE question: “Do you really get paid to just play all day?”
Short answer? Yes! And we love it!
But there’s also a long answer, so bear with us:
Children learn through play, especially play which is interesting and engaging to them. This applies from our tiniest baby to our oldest Pioneers children and everyone in between. Frankly, it applies to our adults too – we learn every day alongside the children in the nursery.
So… what are the benefits of Learning Through Play?
There’s so much we could say to answer this question, but here is a little summary:
Developing social skills – Play often involves others, whether an adult, a sibling or a group of other children. This means that children are constantly learning vital life skills through their play such as turn-taking, conflict resolution and the art of conversation.
Fostering creativity – Play, especially open-ended play, is so important for fostering creativity. Children will show creativity in a range of ways, such as building a tower and working out how to balance it or in making up a story with their dolls, as well as more obvious things like painting. Creativity is something all children have, so it’s really important to foster this so that it isn’t lost as they get older.
Supporting independence and resilience – Although the play does develop social skills, children often enjoy playing independently as well. This gives them a chance to develop their resilience and become an independent learner. Allowing them to solve problems themselves and create solutions always results in creative ideas & gives them the satisfaction of achievement.
Encouraging a love of learning and a sense of wonder – It is so important that children love to learn and find a sense of awe and wonder within their learning. I’m sure we can all relate to the feeling of not enjoying learning, so we believe that if we foster a love of learning in the Early Years we are setting a good foundation to build on as they grow up. So we need to make learning, fun and relevant – through play!
Being great for mental health – It’s interesting how many of us revert to play for relaxation as we get older. Whether it be a board game, a sport, colouring, even a game of Candy Crush on your phone, it may look different but it’s all play and we often do it for our own mental health. It’s important to mirror that for children and ensure it remains fun so it’s something they want to engage in and brings them joy.
Children want to play – simple put, they want to do it so let’s use this amazing love the children have to harness those interest and introduce learning.
So… how can you bring ‘learning through play’ into your home routine?
Be available but step away sometimes – It’s great to be around for children’s play and sometimes the best way to introduce learning is through your input. Sometimes though, it’s beneficial to step back, let them play and observe what they are doing. They will still learn so much and they will, of course, let you know when they are ready for you to re-join them.
Scaffold learning/thinking – When we are playing with children we can scaffold their play and their thinking. Ultimately this is playing and learning with children – talking about what they are doing, making suggestions, asking open-ended questions and solving problems together.
Provide open-ended opportunities – Whilst a focussed activity or craft has its place and children often do enjoy them, an open-ended play experience provides a much wider range of learning opportunities for children. For example, providing a range of different building materials and working together to create something amazing will offer much more opportunities for problem-solving, teamwork, resilience, physical development and communication skills (the list goes on) than a specific lego set will instructions will (that being said, we do love lego!)
Provide play linked to interests – If children are interested, they will learn. It really is as simple as that! You know your children best, so use their interests to engage them in learning. For example, when playing with dinosaurs use lots of language about the size to build on Math Development, when role-playing in a play kitchen talk about healthy eating, or if they love being outside listen to the sounds you hear on your walk, a great first steps for phonics and learning to read.
There’s so much more to say on the subject but our team really are the experts in harnessing Learning Through Play. We love to share ideas of things to do at home so please do come and talk to us about it if you would like to and we will keep sharing ideas via Famly, Facebook and our blogs