Play-based learning – the buzz phrase of the preschool world that you might have heard repeatedly but never fully understood! Afterall, it has not always been common to speak of play and learning in the same breath. There are even schools where play is limited to certain times of the day while other periods are solely dedicated to teaching.
But many early years educators today see the value in marrying both ideas and using young learners’ natural curiosities, interests and desires to teach them. They place the child at the centre of their classroom plans!
Looking for a Preschool for your child? Want to see play-based learning in practise? Join a Pre-School Open House now!
Why play-based learning?
Really now, why is there so much hype about play-based learning you might be wondering? Well the question you should really be asking is, how did educators and schools ever forget that play is the most natural thing to young learners? Children have a desire to play and it is normal. And play is not always a distraction from learning. They can both be integrated to the benefit of the child – but of course, with everything it has to be done right.
Very importantly, when play is integrated into education, children pick up lessons that stay with them for a lifetime. They are able to see the relevance and applicability of the knowledge they gain outside of the school and classroom. This is what makes ideas and concepts really stick.
But what can children really learn from play-based learning?
Fair question. While we all want to believe that our children are constantly learning, we also want schools to spell out what exactly the students are learning.
Play-based learning has been shown to help young learners develop:
- Emotional intelligence and social skills as they engage in playmaking with their peers, learn how to communicate and collaborate to make certain play ideas happen
- Imaginative thinking skills as play gives them an opportunity to reimagine the spaces and objects around them
- Problem solving skills as they strive to overcome the limitations within the physical space to find ways to make play happen the way they desire it to be
- Numeracy and literacy as they find organic opportunities to read, articulate their thoughts, count, calculate etc. Design and innovation thinking as they assemble, deconstruct, rearrange, classify etc. Confidence in their own physical abilities as they jump, run, throw, catch and so on.
How is play-based learning applied in the classroom?
Commonly people think play-based learning involves the teacher coming into class with an elaborate game or activity, based on a pre-determined learning objective, that he or she introduces to the class and all the children engage in it for a fixed period of time.
The truth though is that a well implemented play-based learning session looks nothing like that.
Play-based learning encourages students to initiate play as opposed to the teacher initiating it. It also discourages teachers from imposing any form of strict structure (e.g. asking all the students in a class to use the Lego pieces to build a house instead of letting each individual student explore and decide what they would like to build).
But how will the students even get started with the play then? Teachers are tasked to create an environment that is composed of different prompts, materials and objects that can be used in many different ways and invite students to partake in free play. In order to create a truly excitable environment for the children, the teachers are encouraged to actively listen to the ideas and interests the children express and incorporate these into the classroom in a meaningful way.
It is also important that teachers are always there to support the students by providing prompts and cues so that the children can engage in meaning making through their play.
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