Development of intellectual skills, thinking and motivation are just some of the reasons that play-based learning is essential for children’s learning. Many teachers have incorporated this into early education and have seen results. Backed up by research, it’s known that children can organise and make sense of their social worlds. As students play with and explore difference materials, they are actively engaged with people, objects and representations. This type of engagement holds great value in developing cognitive skills, imagination and social competence.
Here are four ways play-based learning benefits children in the early years.
Develops language skills
During pre-school years, a child’s vocabulary grows and develops as they play together with peers and interact with adults. Language development is supported through through play; they can do this by asking questions, encouraging conversation and introducing unfamiliar words. Because the resources are suited to a child’s interest, it’s a more natural and comfortable way for this process to unfold and develop.
Helps build Literacy skills
Some pre-literacy skills that can be incorporated into developmental paly are music, rhythm and rhyme. Listening skills and sound recognition help build the foundations for reading and basic Literacy. Children can hear different sounds, have exposure to syllable counts and how they can be put together, listening skills and interactions with each other and adults using words, sounds and songs.
“When you are engaging in play, which in and of itself is a symbolic metaphor in its truest form, whole parts of your brain are engaged, developing crucial connections that lead to a positive development of the child,” says Clair Mellenthin, author of Play Therapy: Engaging & Powerful Techniques for the Treatment of Childhood Disorders.
Social and emotions skills are brought to the forefront by engaging with a group. Playing cooperative games and circle games brings joy and values the individual’s own experiences, while making children feel that they belong to a community.
Connectedness and developing positive relationships has been linked to play-based learning. Emotional competence and empathy are developed through play as children learn about the feelings, emotions and motivations of others. It is essential to provide opportunities for young children to engage in dramatised play to demonstrate ways of caring and showing empathy. Examples of dramatised play include cuddling their teddy bear when the teddy is ‘hurt’ and feeding their dolly when the dolly is ‘hungry’.
As little people, a full day can also be overwhelming and tyring. Calm play can be therapeutic and allows time for the brain to process information and recharge.
Fosters creativity and imagination
Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Imagination is the door to possibilities. Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. Play equipment encourages children to manipulate materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan (intentionally or unintentionally), act, interact, react, and try different roles. Some examples for creative play are playing with dolls, vehicles, blocks, rocks, cardboard, or boxes.
Critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities are goals for children's development. Imagining, trying new ways of doing things, and experimenting help critical thinking and develop skills to creatively problem solve.