Playing Helps Learning

When Children Play Freely, They are Learning!

Play is children’s ‘work’.When children are playing, they are learning valuable information.  This poem summarises it:

The Value of Play

Play is fun.
Play comes from within. Children love to play.
Play is an important part of healthy development.
Play is enjoyable and doesn’t need careful planning, or an end result.
Play means active involvement, not just watching.
During play, the child sets the rules, and there is no right or wrong way to play.
During play children practise physical skills and learn about their bodies.
They learn to use their imagination.
They learn about their own feelings and the feelings of others.
They learn about the world around them using all five senses.
Play is the work of children!

Through play children learn:

To explore materials
To be creative
To use language
To share (maybe!)
To make decisions
To test possibilities
To estimate
To concentrate
and so much more!

Children need the time to explore through play – by playing alone, with other children, and with you. Each of these relationships are important!

In the first 12 months, play involves rattles and listening to your voice; watching you move about the room, or the dog running in the garden; playing with their toes. Babies like to bang wooden spoons on saucepans, and to pull things out of the laundry basket (clean or not!), and to play peek-a-boo!

From 1 -2 years, toddlers like to play with dolls or teddies, and to help you make the bed, to play in sand or water, with empty containers. They love to stack objects and to open and close drawers and doors, and to climb in and out of cardboard grocery boxes. Toddlers love playing chasings, drawing with crayons and collecting stones or sticks when out walking.

At 2 -3 years, children often like messy play with sand and water, or shaving cream spread on a table. They love to walk , run and climb, and to join in when you wash the car or cook a cake. Toddlers like pasting objects onto paper and taking them off again, to play dress-ups with your clothes and shoes, and to sort out cars and animal toys into different boxes.

3-4 year olds like pretend play – to be a shopkeeper, a doctor or a mechanic. They like to help you water the garden and wash the dishes. They often like to paint and to see that you display their artwork. Young children like to jump and to throw and catch a ball. They can learn to use scissors and to make paper chains or to thread beads onto string. They like to ‘read’ you the story from the book, and to talk a lot!

You’ll notice that many of the activities listed don’t involve expensive toys – most are with items you have around the house, and having your participation is what children really want! It’s pretty easy to include children in the jobs you have to do around the home – washing, cleaning, cooking, hanging clothes out on the line, or weeding the garden – give them a small task to do and praise them as they attempt to do it….. just watch them swell with pride!

If you can make time (even small amounts) to play with your children every day, not only with they be learning skills and developing, they are also forming a positive relationship with the most important person in their world – You! When playing with young children, let them ‘lead’ the play ie ask them what they’d like you to do with the building blocks, or what they’d like you to draw with the crayons. This teaches them that there are some things which they can choose and control, and at other times Mum or Dad chooses.

Remember play is about fun and learning – smile, laugh, show and embrace this experience together….

Happy Playing!

Image by Chris Parfitt via Flickr

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