Children are naturally curious and play-based learning appeals to their innate quest for discovery and knowledge.
They’re more motivated to learn about the world around them when their play activities are based on their interests and their strengths and experts agree that play-based learning is the best way for little people to accumulate many valuable skills that will endure through their lifetimes.
And whilst there isn’t a single definition of ‘play’, it does encompass many different activities including playing with materials and objects, playing with others and on their own, physical play, active play, pretend play, outdoor play, free play and play that is prompted by adults.
Play-based learning benefits children in the following ways:
Promotes the development of intellectual skills, thinking skills and motivation. Early indications from research is that play can actually shape the physical structural design of the brain, helping to build and strengthen its pathways.
Helps children develop their social skills and learn to regulate their emotional responses. Play-based learning teaches children about relationship-building and helps them make connections with others, work as a team and develop friendships. It helps learn to negotiate and resolve conflict and helps them build resilience and empathy.
Encourages the development of language skills. During playtime where they’re doing things that they’re interested in and that they enjoy, the child will make conversation, develop their oral skills and grow their vocabulary. Adults or educators may also have opportunities for a well-placed question or suggestion to provoke further exploration and discovery.
Fosters imagination. Creativity is an important lifeskill and play activities support a child’s innate desire to solve problems and find solutions by using their imaginations.
Helps with memory skills and knowledge retention. When a child participates in activities such as singing songs, reciting rhymes and playing games, they develop cognitive skills such as memory, retention and problem-solving.
Helps develop fine and gross motor skills. Physical play and playing outdoors is a great way for children to practise their gross motor skills, build strength and improve their hand-eye co-ordination while activities such as putting pegs in a board and threading beads are great for fine motor skills.
Helps with overall wellbeing. Playing is an acknowledged stress release for children and can be a calm, therapeutic time for a child to unwind and recharge.
Play does need to be freely chosen however, and should bring enjoyment to the child. Of course, there are times when adults could - and should - support a child in order to meet their particular needs but as the established method of early education, Reggio Emilia purports, early learning should always be led by the child.
This flexibility where children are allowed to have fun pursuing knowledge and discovery in things that they have an interest in, is one of the key distinguishing factors of the Reggio Emilia approach - and one which has contributed hugely to its worldwide popularity.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of play-based learning or want to find a childcare centre near you that’s inspired by Reggio Emilia, get in touch with the friendly team at Treasured Tots at www.treasuredtots.com.au. They offer high quality, nurturing early education at their network of childcare centres in Mandurah, Bibra Lake and Fremantle and they would love to meet you for a tour of one of their centres or for a friendly chat about your child’s early learning and discovery journey.