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Preschool girls sorting shapes

PLAY BASED LEARNING


"The impulse to play comes from a natural desire to understand the world."
~NAEYC

Benefits of Play-Based Learning

Early learning experiences rooted in playfulness lay the foundation for lifelong academic success and improved educational outcomes. Play-based learning, specifically guided play, allows for experiences that are child-led and teach-facilitated. Guided play is self-chosen, enjoyable and process oriented. It maintains the joy of free play while allowing children to connect authentically with content. Children progress towards learning goals by making meaningful personal discoveries and then apply them to the own lives. 

​Social-Emotional Development Through Play

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social-emotional learning is when children “acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Children develop socially and emotionally through play as they imagine the world from a different perspective, understand the differences between themselves and others, learn how to interact with others, and more.

  • The interactive nature of play supports children in forming bonds and acquiring essential social skills such as cooperation and teamwork. Through play they develop the ability to navigate and resolve conflicts effectively.  

  • Interacting with peers, aids children in developing a strong sense of self. Through initiating activities, participating in play, and making decisions, they gain confidence and motivation to engage as active learners.

  • Engaging in role-play allows children to experience and understand the perspectives and emotions of others. Through this imaginative play, children gain insight into the potential consequences of their actions in real-life situations.

  • In a play-based learning setting, engaging in art creation introduces children to process-focused art versus product-focused art. Process-focused art encourages exploration without rules or examples, fostering creativity without judgement and a sense of accomplishment regardless of the outcome. On the other hand, product-focused art follows instructions and examples provided by the teacher, emphasizing right and wrong methods. 

  • Engaging in play alleviates stress and provides an avenue to release anxiety.

 

Cognitive Development Through Play

Cognitive development encompasses a child's increasing capacity to utilize their intellect for processing information, involving problem-solving, language acquisition, and sensory interpretation. Research indicates that play contributes significantly to fostering healthy brain development by engaging children's minds and refining early literacy and language skills, sensory perception, and fundamental scientific and mathematical concepts.

  • During play, children use their imagination, which revolves around symbols. In their imaginative world, everyday objects take on symbolic meanings; for instance, a laundry basket may symbolize a boat, while a stick may symbolize a fishing rod. Proficiency in understanding symbols is essential for literacy, as letters serve as symbols in reading and writing. Similarly, this understanding is crucial for grasping mathematical concepts and interpreting numbers. 

  • During dramatic play, children use language to communicate and express themselves. Through representing and acting out stories, they actively practice and refine their language and storytelling abilities. 

  • Engaging in artistic activities such as creating collages or labeling drawings with names, assists children in learning to express ideas visually, use letters to communicate meaning, and comprehend the function of writing.

  • Children begin to grasp basic scientific concepts as they explore and observe the functioning of the world around them. For instance, they learn about cause and effect by stacking blocks and experiencing the consequences. Similarly, by touching and examining bird feathers, they gain insight into textures and the characteristics of living creatures.

 

Physical Development Through Play

Physical development encompasses the advancement of both gross and fine motor skills, as well as how a child utilizes their body. Through play, children enhance muscle strength and coordination, experiment with various tactile sensations, and engage in a beneficial level of physical activity.

  • Play promotes higher levels of physical activity compared to passive forms of entertainment such as watching TV or playing games on a tablet.

  • Children build muscle mass and coordination through activities like jumping, climbing, swinging, running, and moving during play.

  • Art and play provide children with diverse tactile experiences, allowing them to explore sensations such as the texture of wooden blocks, the softness of plush toys, the sensation of wet paint, and more.

 

How Do I Know My Child Is Learning?

You can gauge your child's learning in a play-based program by observing:

  • Engagement: Notice if your child is actively participating in activities and showing interest in learning opportunities.

  • Creativity: Look for signs of imaginative play, storytelling, and creative expression.

  • Problem-solving Skills: Observe how your child approaches challenges and finds solutions during play.

  • Social Interactions: Pay attention to your child's interactions with their peers when sharing, taking turns, and resolving conflict.

  • Language Development: Listen for your child's use of language, vocabulary expansion, and storytelling abilities during play.

  • Fine and Gross Motor Skills: Notice improvements in your child's eye-hand coordination, manipulation of objects, and physical activities.

  • Curiosity and Exploration: See if your child demonstrates a willingness to explore new materials, environments, and concepts through play. 

By observing these indicators, you can assess your child's learning and development within a play-based learning program.​


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