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Play: An essential strategy for learning & preparing your child for Grade R

The right to play is deemed so fundamental to children’s wellbeing, that it is enshrined by the UN as a universal children’s right.

Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn. It underpins formal learning later in childhood, but also enables the child to develop their self-worth. It strengthens concentration (essential for a successful future in the classroom) and underpins everything from learning social interactions and norms, to the beginnings of scientific thinking.

The Early Years Matter

Scientific research has taught us that the most important period of human development is from birth to eight years old. During these years, your child’s development of cognitive skills, emotional well-being, social competence, and sound physical and mental health builds a strong foundation for success well into their adult years.

Although learning takes place throughout life, in early childhood, learning is taking place at a speed that will never be equalled. The preschool education years fall in the middle of the early childhood period and lay the groundwork for your child’s success in school and beyond.

Play Takes Many Forms

Everyone knows ‘play’ when they see it – on streets, on playgrounds, in classrooms. People from every culture, economic background and community engage in play from their earliest years. Yet play can be hard to define. Researchers and theorists, however, agree on the key characteristics of playful experiences:

The activity:

  • is experienced as joyful,
  • helps children find meaning in what they are doing or learning,
  • involves active, engaged, minds-on thinking,
  • as well as iterative thinking (experimentation, hypothesis testing, etc.) and
  • social interaction.

Download our “14 Best Activities for Children to Help Them Learn Through Play” document that includes activities and ideas for you and your child to try out at home.

Play Is Meaningful

Children play to make sense of the world around them, and to find meaning in an experience by connecting it to something already known. Through play, children express and expand their understanding of their experiences.

Play Is Joyful

When you look at children playing, you will notice them smiling and laughing. Of course, play may have its frustrations and challenges (Who gets the first turn? Why can’t I make this block building stay up?), but the overall feeling is one of enjoyment, motivation, thrill, and pleasure.

Play Is Actively Engaging

Watch children playing, and you will usually see that they become deeply involved, often combining physical, mental, and verbal engagement.

Play Is Iterative

Play and learning are not static. Children play to practice skills, try out possibilities, revise hypotheses and discover new challenges, leading to deeper learning.

Play Is Socially Interactive

Play allows children to communicate ideas, to understand others through social interaction, paving the way to build deeper understanding and more powerful relationships.

Learning through play: Examples

Children at play learn how to:

  • Make a plan and follow through (“I want to draw my family. Who will I put in my picture?”)
  • Learn from trial and error, using imagination and problem-solving skills (“My tall tower fell down! Maybe my friend can help build it up again.”)
  • Apply concepts of quantity, science and movement to real life (“I like these big seeds. How many will I need to cover this part of my picture?”)
  • Reason in a logical, analytical manner by acting on objects (“There are still some pieces missing in this puzzle. Which ones might fit?”)
  • Communicate and negotiate differences in points of view (“I want to be the mother. Could you be the baby? Or maybe the grandmother?”)
  • Derive satisfaction from their own accomplishments (“We did it together!”)
  • Develop creativity and explore aesthetics and artistry (“I wonder what will happen if I mix these colours together?)

Download our “14 Best Activities for Children to Help Them Learn Through Play” document that includes activities and ideas for you and your child to try out at home.

Children learn critical skills as they play

When children choose to play, they are not thinking “Now I am going to learn something from this activity.” Yet their play creates powerful learning opportunities across all areas of development, including motor, cognitive and social and emotional skills.

While children are playing, they try out new social skills (sharing toys, agreeing on how to work together with materials), and they often take on some challenging cognitive tasks (such as figuring out how to make a building with smaller blocks when the larger ones are not available).

Through play, children begin to understand the features of patterns that are the foundation for mathematics. For example, by playing with geometric blocks they understand the concept that two squares can form a rectangle and two triangles can form a square.

Pretend or play is especially beneficial: in such play, children express their ideas, thoughts and feelings, learn how to control their emotions, interact with others, resolve conflicts and gain a sense of competence.

Play teaches children leadership as well as group skills. Furthermore, play is a natural tool that children can use to build their resilience and coping skills, as they learn to navigate relationships and deal with social challenges as well as conquer their fears, for example through re-enacting fantasy heroes.

More generally, play satisfies a basic human need to express imagination, curiosity, and creativity, which are key resources in a knowledge-driven world. They help us to cope, to find pleasure, and to use our imaginative and innovative powers.

The critical skills that children acquire through play form part of the fundamental building blocks of future complex “21st-century skills”.

Here for You and Your Family

Play is far more powerful than many parents realise. It’s the key to learning. Play helps your child to ask questions, express themselves, collaborate with others, and take creative risks. It also helps them to retain their natural curiosity and to never lose the excitement of learning something new. All those things are achieved by making learning fun for your child.

At Biolink Attention Training, we want nothing more than to see your child be successful, just as much as you do. If you feel that you need some help in guiding your son or daughter with their academics or address a cognitive issue that’s affecting their school life, then contact us today or find a center near you.

Lizaan Spangenberg
Biolink Attention Training Head Office

Download our “14 Best Activities for Children to Help Them Learn Through Play” document that includes activities and ideas for you and your child to try out at home.