The best way for kids to learn is when they don’t realize that they are learning!
Fun is the key and is the natural way for all young children to absorb knowledge and develop new skills.
Wolf puppies play fighting while their pack is off hunting? It’s not just rough and tumble – there’s a vital purpose to this activity. They are practicing important social skills, developing their hunting and fighting capabilities and, ultimately, establishing the group pecking order – critical for their future survival.
Today our domesticated best friends Fido and Rex carry out exactly the same rituals when they meet in the park.
Learning through play is an innate instinct in all creatures, and little humans are no exception.
With a little creativity, parents and pre-school teachers can guide children’s play so that, not only are they occupied and having fun, but they are benefiting their minds and bodies too.
We can all give our kids an iPad or turn on the Disney channel but let’s not rely on that too much.
6 Benefits That Make Learning Through Play A Must!
1. Social Skills
Interactive games will feed your child’s early social skills; instrumental for communication with the outside world and for learning behavioral norms
When you offer your child something interesting to crack with their brain power, solving the problem will make them more confident about their capabilities and skills.
They will learn about their strengths and how to channel their efforts positively
Play helps develop a child’s sense of independence and self-reliance.
If a child is struggling with an activity, the best thing to do is direct them towards finding their own solution – rather than jumping in and doing it for them.
Knowing that, lost in a game, they have managed without mom or dad for a short while lets them know that they are safe and are capable of doing things for themselves.
For more thoughts on developing independence take a look at this article.
Concentration is always a tough challenge for preschoolers but engaging your little ones’ brains with playful activities will help them stay in place for more than a few seconds at a time
5. A Love of Learning
Confidence, independence, and self-esteem developed through play nurtures curiosity and experimentation.
Learning and exploring are innate human traits and getting simple tasks right early on wires little brains to recognize the dopamine reward of achievement and growth.
6. Life Skills
Playful learning can introduce your child to those practical skills they will need as they grow up.
There is no end to the benefits of learning through play.
A little thought and direction are needed though to ensure an optimum balance between fun and education.
5 Fun Activities For Preschoolers Ideal For Play Based Learning
Hide and seek
This classic game has been around for as long as anyone can remember, and it never gets old.
Hide and Seek teaches children to exercise patience while hiding and persistence while seeking.
For young children, this is an excellent opportunity to practice their counting.
And, of course, you need to use your imagination and creativity when choosing hiding spots and when looking for other participants.
What child doesn’t like building things?
From simple wooden blocks to complex Lego structures, the instinct to build is there in all of us.
At any age, but especially for preschoolers, building with blocks offers a great learning opportunity.
Firstly, the child’s creativity is awakened as they learn to build different shapes.
But, more deeply than that, vocabulary improves as they learn to describe different shapes and colors. Geometric and visual spatial awareness is stimulated as they learn what can and can’t be stacked on top of another block and they even learn about basic mechanics and balance ….. pesky gravity….
Preschoolers may be too young to fire the stove and fry up some eggs, but young kids all love mixing things and getting their hands messy and helping mom or dad create something in the kitchen gives them a feeling of self-esteem.
Cooking stimulates all five senses and is great for learning.
Mixing up some flour and water is all kids need to feel involved in the ‘cooking’ process.
It’s pretty cheap too albeit almost certainly very messy (outside on a warm day maybe!).
Young children can also help make real (but simple) items like cookies or bread.
Cooking helps develop many crucial skills such as reading, following directions, and counting out and measuring.
It also trains fine motor skills and dexterity.
Of all the benefits, perhaps the biggest positive aspect of cooking with kids is that it’s great family time – plus you get to eat the result! Yum.
Amongst all the chaos, it’s hard to imagine that this game offers any benefits other than burning excessive energy (not a bad thing).
However, there are key life skills to be picked up here. The most obvious lesson learned from this game is the fact that life isn’t always fair, and things don’t always go our way.
At times we have to scramble for what’s available and, if we get caught out, then that’s just part of the game.
Another important lesson is conflict resolution.
Often, two players will sit on one chair, and they have to agree on who got there first. They will need to agree to compromise; otherwise, the game can’t go on.
Who’d have thought this childhood classic would prepare us for a life of diplomacy and tolerance.
Throwing, chasing, squeezing, chewing…. there are so many things you can do with a ball it’s no wonder they are so universally popular.
It’s probably a child’s number one toy in terms of versatility and, practically, ball play offers many development opportunities; including eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, creativity, color & geometry awareness, and turn-taking.
For younger children, why not try a simple rolling activity passing the ball from parent to child or, as they get older, kids love knocking things down by rolling a ball at them. No need for a bowling alley some plastic bottles will do.
For older children piggy/monkey in the middle is a great game for developing eye-hand coordination and, most importantly, the social skills to know that sometimes you get caught and sometimes you have to take a turn in the middle.
Learning through play – the opportunities are everywhere!
There are a lot of ways to teach children through play and opportunities abound if we take the time to notice them and get our kids involved.
Even the busiest of us can try to make a game of tidying up, for example (a sense of responsibility and contribution to the family and an awareness that the toys don’t put themselves away).
The path of least resistance is to turn on the TV and do the tidying ourselves but consider play as an investment in the future – time in now reaps rewards out later.
Life as a parent can be hectic and challenging.
From time to time, our brains just need to switch off for a little while; some downtime to vegetate. This goes for our little ones too.
However, it’s worthwhile putting in a little effort and reflecting on our children’s play activities, spotting the social, communication, and physical development opportunities within them and subtly steering kids in the right direction.
Don’t get too stressed about it though.
After all, learning through play is a natural part of life and you’ll probably find that switching off the TV is the most crucial step of all.
Michael Oliver is the co-owner of Stuff4tots (www.stuff4tots.com) alongside wife Louise. They have two challenging but lovable little ones and have set up their little online business in order to allow them to spend more time at home with the family and less time on the road to “work”. We hope you head on over and check us out some time.