Play is as old as mankind. From early chess pieces from 6,000 B.C to today’s technological advances, play¬†is an important part of raising our children. Now in the 21st century, it is apparent that play is essential to the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of our children. As a result, children are more prepared for school and will grow up with the skills they need to fully reach their potential. As parents, we love to see our children playing. They create ideas and learn about the world in new ways as they play. But what exactly is the link between play and learning?

What is Meaningful Play?

Looking back on our childhood, what are the happiest memories that come to mind? Adults tend to look back on their childhood play memories with nostalgia. These joyful and meaningful experiences bind families together even long after the children are grown. But what is it about meaningful play that makes it so special?

Meaningful play has five characteristics. It:

  1. Allows children to make their own decisions.
  2. Feels fun and enjoyable for the child.
  3. Evolves spontaneously, not scripted, experiences.
  4. Is driven by the intrinsic motivation to understand the world.
  5. Creates a risk-free environment where kids can experiment and try new ideas.

With meaningful play, children are active participants. Children take on roles alongside their peers. Children form rules collectively, follow a selective leader or have an inherent sense of what governs them. They respond to rules they have created instead of passively following a lesson plan. The active, pleasurable negotiation of rules and symbols offers a number of learning benefits.

How Do Children Learn Through Play?

Play is an important part of the learning process. For young children, play is a full body activity that helps them develop skills they need for later in life. Active play, like running, climbing, and rolling, foster muscle development and fine-motor skills. Play also helps build their mental and emotional well being as they create elaborate worlds. Children teach themselves to regulate their emotions and think before they act when they play. They consider how their actions correlate to the character they are being in certain situations. This role-playing helps children build social skills which help them thrive in a range of personal and professional environments as adults.

Play in the Classroom

Play even helps children learn and grow in academic settings. Teacher-initiated play offers educators to ask children questions about the rules and process that governs their play. They can then encourage children to make connections to the wider world through their own body of knowledge. Play when combined with different subjects creates a greater educational experience. Students learn critical thinking, develop language, expand their knowledge, and increase social-emotional awareness all without realizing they are learning.

Maximize Learning

There are a few ways that teachers can bring a sense of play into the classroom based on their subject.

  • When reading, encourage students to turn each page and follow along with their fingers. This prompts them to talk about the content and connect it to their lives. Engage their imagination and curiosity by asking what they think will happen next.
  • Bring stories to life using dramatic play. Have your students act out scenes and express themselves. This helps improve their confidence, increase their ability to see the perspective of others and increase the attention they give to the literature.
  • Give kids opportunities to wonder, question, work as a team, experiment, play with different possibilities and investigate subjects that interest them.

Quality daycare programs spell success for the future. Start your child on the right path and contact Little Angels Child Care Center.