Different children have different learning needs. It’s true that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to meeting their needs.
However, there’s often a dilemma that commonly hits educators and parents: which is better—work hard or play hard?
Learning Through Play: Balancing work and play
The reality is too much of either work or play can be detrimental to children’s learning and development.
Children should definitely learn the value of hard work, but it’s also important for them to enjoy some playtime.
Just like their adult counterparts, each child requires a fair balance between work and play to learn and grow healthily, both physically and mentally.
And it would certainly be a cherry on the cake if educators and parents can embrace something called learning through play.
In the field of psychology and education, learning through play is a term used to describe how children can learn to understand and make sense of the world around them in the early years.
Proponents of this concept believe that through different means of play, children can inculcate cognitive and social skills, become emotionally mature, and build self-confidence.
All these skills can help them engage in new environments and experiences.
The central idea of learning through play is to bring together the different aspects—home, school, social community, and the wider world—that make up children’s lives.
The aim of the play-based learning model is to ensure that there is connectivity and continuity of children’s learning over a period of time and across different environments.
Play-based Learning in Different Settings
The concept of learning through play is applicable at home, in a pre-primary setting, and during early grades of primary school.
The home environment and the wider community are where children spend a significant amount of their early lives. It is here where they interact with their parents, siblings, neighbors, and extended family members.
So, primary caregivers can be called children’s “first teachers” because they are responsible for creating the initial space for play-based learning activities in their day-to-day experiences.
Outside the bounds of their homes, children enter the organized pre-primary setting where learning through play can take place in many forms.
It can be play with peers and objects as well as solitary play, cooperative play, physical play and associative play.
In this setting, play becomes a way for children to acquire skills and knowledge through social interactions and autonomous thinking, enabling them to make sense of the world around them.
The role of educators and adults in a pre-primary setting is mostly to facilitate playful experiences for children that bestows them with hands-on experiences and piques their innate curiosities.
When children proceed to the early grades of primary school, they experience a higher level of play-based learning opportunities.
In primary grades, activities that promote learning through play give children an opportunity to up their mastery of various academic concepts.
In a primary school setting, adopting such activities can boost children’s motivation and interest. Over time, they become capable of nurturing their own intelligence and building social competence.
Reading games, book clubs, and dramatizing stories are great ways to explore different themes of life and make learning fun for children.
Learning through play activities makes the entire approach to learning very social and interactive.
It enables children to learn from one another. Moreover, when learning has a play element, children are able to boost their imagination and creativity.
When primary grade students are exposed to a wide variety of written materials, topics, and issues, they become more inquisitive and learn to look for different ways to approach a problem.
In the end, it’s important to emphasize the role that educators and adults play in fostering learning through play.
The successful creation of such a learning environment will only be possible when adults are equipped with the necessary skills.
They need to recognize the benefits of free play, and balancing it out with work to promote a holistic development of children.