7 Reasons for Play Based Learning

By Ian Gross | Parents Avenue’s Columnist | Images Courtesy of Freepik
Ian Gross is the Principal at Kinabalu International School, Sabah, Malaysia and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education through Bath University, UK.

For young children just starting their educational journey, it is important that they get the right foundations. Everything they do at a young age underpins their future learning and how well they will develop and be able to progress.

Research has shown, for a long time now that successful learning incorporates children being active, engaged, meaningful as well as social. Play based learning when used properly has a genuine impact student learning and development. Below, I explain seven reasons why play is crucial for developing students learning skills. I’ll then explain eight play-based activities you can try with your child.

7 Reasons For Play Based Learning
 
  1. Play is crucial for developing children’s communication skills. It lays the foundation for literacy. Through play children learn to make and practise new sounds. They try out new vocabulary, on their own or with friends, and exercise their imagination through storytelling. The class teacher supports and encourages a safe environment for children to learn through play.
  1. Play is learning. It nurtures development and fulfils an infants’ inbuilt need to learn. Play can take many forms, from peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek. Play can be done by a child alone, with another child, in a group or with an adult. A well-organised classroom is perfect.
  1. Play gives children the chance to be spontaneous. You may think your child should be rolling the truck on the ground but that doesn’t mean that truck is not equally useful as a stacking toy or becoming a flying machine.
  1. Play expands children’s imagination, leading to more creativity. As adults we can often misunderstand a child’s play because we have lost the depth of imagination children naturally have.
  1. Play gives children choice. Having enough toys or activities to choose from will allow children to express themselves. Children also learn about the concept of sharing when other children are involved.
  1. Play gives children space. To practise physical movement, balance and to test their own limits. Good classroom layout is important to give children space and separate areas for different types of play.
  1. Play allows children to express and develop their body language. This is another key form of communication and understanding social situations with others. A class full of children in structured play allows for these interactions.

Play based learning is not limited to school. As parents you have a key role in your child’s development and bond more with them at the same time. Play teaches parents patience and understanding. When you join in your child’s play make sure that you do not try to take it over and force your own learning objectives into their play. Structured parent-led activities have their time and place but remember to allow time for your children to control and decide their own play. Play gives parents the chance to learn how to play again. One of the most challenging parts of play is allowing yourself in it.

Play encourages parents to communicate with their children. Parents can support their child’s play by providing them opportunities to play, and by knowing when to get involved, and when not to be involved. Playing should be fun. Learning to play well, both by themselves and with others, sets children up to be contented and sociable.

As a parent, how can you get involved? Your child will be learning new things every day. This is an important age to encourage your child to play with others, look at books they like and talk about what they are doing. Talking to your child shows you’re interested in them and care about them. The more they get the chance to speak, the more they’ll want to and the more they will learn. Try some of these activities.

  1. My Favourite Meal. Let your child chat about the things they like to eat. Talk to your child about foods they like, then look for pictures in magazines etc. Help them cut out their favourites and stick them to a paper plate.
  1. Going to the Supermarket. This game can help entertain your child while you’re out shopping together. Your shopping trip can be a chance to help your child learn new words and objects. Show your child a picture of the item you need, then search for it together in the shop. Help them describe the item. Walk with your child and give them time to look at the shelves.
  1. Out & About. This game can help your child learn words and practice talking when you’re out. Next time you’re out for a walk, you can practise chatting with your child about the things they see. Decide something to look for, then see who can spot the most. This game helps your child pay attention to their surroundings and practise counting.
  1. Making Puppets. This can combine reading with playing and crafts. Ask your child to choose a character or object they like from a book. Get them to draw a picture of it, help them cut it out and stick it to a lollipop stick or a straw. Read the book aloud and encourage your child to use the puppet when the character or object appears. Playing with puppets can help your child work through and understand emotions.
  1. A Memory Game. This encourages your child to talk, think and play. First, gather some of your child’s favourite toys, books and objects. They can help you with this. Put them together and talk about what’s there. Next, ask your child to close their eyes and turn around. Remove some of the items. Then get them to open their eyes and see if they can list what’s missing. You can play this game the other way around, with your child removing the items and testing your memory. This game helps to build concentration and memory.
  1. A Memory Book. Help your child learn about reading, drawing, and choosing things they like. Help your child decorate the cover of a scrapbook and write their name on it. Help them choose their favourite things (books, toys, pets, people, TV shows, etc.). Help them draw them in the scrapbook. Pick out family photos and things they like from any magazines you have around the house. Stick them in together. Keep collecting things, like tickets, photos and drawings to add to the scrapbook. Children love to read about things they have done or about people important to them. Making a memory book is a way to build their self-esteem and confidence.
  1. Make A Story. Making up stories helps your child learn to use their imagination and communicate. Making up a story together with your child is a fun activity that gets them thinking and speaking. Take turns adding bits to the story. Children who make up stories and songs build their imagination and creative abilities.
  1. A Favourite Book. Looking at books together helps your child feel confident as they start learning to read. If your child has spent time looking at books and sharing stories with you, they’ll be excited to learn to read. Try to find time each day to look at a book together. Children like hearing their favourite stories again and again. Ask your child to tell you about their favourite story. Then sit down together during a quiet time and read it together. As you read, ask them questions about the story.

Playing games helps prepare your child for the world. They’ll learn about taking turns, taking risks, understanding emotions and playing well with others. Combining reading, playing and imagination will help your child be excited about books. This will help them as they develop their reading skills. Reading stories helps children understand change, challenges and feelings. Playing games with your child is also fun for you, but make sure you give yourself time to do this properly, children can get disappointed and lose interest if activities are always rushed or unfinished.

Ian Gross is the Principal at Kinabalu International School, Sabah, Malaysia and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education through Bath University, UK.

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