Play is a very important part of a child’s Early Years Development. When discussing the benefits of learning through play, some may believe that playtime takes away from children engaging in serious learning at nursery or school. However, it’s crucial to recognize that for young children, learning through play is, in fact, a form of serious and valuable education.
Playing helps a young child’s brain to develop and helps their language and communication skills to mature. Even taking part in simple games such as peek a boo or shaking a rattle and singing songs, teaches young children about communication and helps develop their motor skills and problem-solving skills. These early childhood games play a vital part in laying the foundations for early years formal education. Something as easy and simple as the children enjoying a game of stacking and knocking down blocks, allows them to discover maths and science concepts, by observing the balance and gravity of the blocks, the shape of the blocks, and counting blocks as they build.
Play has been identified and practiced by most progressive countries as one of the best methods for introducing learning in young children. It is encouraged and emphasized to be used at Early Years provisions, as a way of inculcating a love for learning from a young age. The best British nurseries in Dubai (or The Best nurseries in Dubai) recognise the importance of learning through play and practice it extensively at their settings. The EYFS framework (British Curriculum) indicates effective ways to practice ‘Learning through play’ to ensure children learn and develop to the best of their abilities.
How does the play-way method fit into the EYFS framework?
As the EYFS framework is designed to focus on children aged between 0 to 5 years, play is a key element included in the framework.
How do children learn at young age
- Observing – Even from a very young age, babies start observing surroundings, sounds, warmth etc. They start identifying and enjoying such experiences though play. Mostly babies learn about their routine using such observations, for example: “I will get milk after the bath every time.”
- Exploring – Children are generally very curious to explore objects and surroundings using their senses as part of play. For example, a child may pick a toy or any object they find to find out if it makes sounds, how it feels, if they can construct something with it, and even how it smells or tastes.
- Experiencing – Children build knowledge based on their own or others’ experiences around them. A child may take cues from parents expressions of experiencing something.
- Responding – Children develop the concept of social surrounding by responding to different experiences. For example – A child may feel “I have been praised every time I respond to an instruction”, which builds child’s self-esteem.
- Mimicking – Mimicking is very common in children while playing, and is a way of learning and growing. Children may mimic their favourite story characters or sounds of animals and objects during their play
- Repeating – Play also provide children opportunities to repeat their learnings to gain confidence. Repeating similar actions or skills like holding a crayon helps them to learn better grip and angle each time.
Children get all the above opportunities through play, with Adult-led (planned) or child-led activities using various techniques and tools.
Key benefits of learning through play
There are several benefits for children in learning through play:
- One of the biggest benefits of playing is that it increases a child’s creativity. Creativity is closely tied to divergent thinking, which is the thought process that explores many possible solutions and generates new ideas.
- Learning through play helps children with their impulse control and regulating their emotions. Self-regulation is one of the most important skills for school readiness. Well-regulated children can wait for a turn, resist the temptation to grab objects from other children, control negative emotions, and persist through challenging activities.
- Playing is crucial in enhancing social development in children in their early years. Unstructured active play with others, including parents, siblings, and their peers, is a significant opportunity to cultivate social skills. While playing, the act of pretending as well as negotiating with peers enhances children’s social skills. Playing also provides opportunities for children to learn social interaction. While playing together, children learn to cooperate and follow the rules as well as develop self-control and get along with each other.
- Play helps children to develop problem-solving skills. When children act out life’s problems in pretend playing, it teaches them how to cope with struggles in their own ways. It also provides a safe opportunity for children to rehearse skills and future social roles. When children try out various roles, they learn to take on different perspectives, which will further assist them in abstract thinking.