Play-Based Learning: The Importance of Play for Early Childhood Education

play-based learning - teacher using blocks to teach kids

The first years of life are the most critical for learning experiences and brain development. Play is essential to development, as it helps children learn how to regulate their emotions, develop social skills, and explore the world around them. 

Childhood teachers use play-based learning educational concepts to allow children to learn through the natural process of play. It typically occurs in an unstructured environment where the child is given an active role to explore and learn about their world.

Play-based learning concepts can be seen in various childhood education locations like home, preschool, kindergarten classrooms, or other learning centre settings.

Learning and play focuses on developing children’s natural abilities instead of focusing on developing knowledge and understanding. As one of our core values, we are dedicated to respecting each child’s unique learning needs.

Play-based learning programs can be done in many ways, but it typically means engaging in fun activities with an adult or another child. It is a learning style that allows discovery and exploration more than rote memorisation.

This blog post will provide information on play-based learning in early childhood education.

What are the benefits of play-based learning?

play-based learning - children playing with a board game

1. Allows young children to make discoveries about the world around them

By being knowledgeable about their surroundings, kids grow intellectually and socially. During play children create their own ideas by making discoveries about their surroundings and use this knowledge to solve problems independently.

2. Helps children learn to regulate their emotions

Play is an important way to regulate emotional development, which will benefit children in the future. This skill is crucial for social development and interpersonal skills because it allows young kids to be mindful and understand how their actions affect other people. 

3. Helps build social skills with peers and adults

Human beings need healthy personal relationships. People who have strong social skills tend to have greater self-confidence and self-esteem. This results in them being accepted by others, which is vital for social development.

4. Develops problem solving skills

Many children rely on images and symbols to communicate with others, such as drawing pictures or maps, using words or numbers. When children are given the chance to express themselves through different modes of communication, this helps them think through problems more thoroughly.

5. Develops strong communication skills

Young kids constantly communicate with others, either verbally or non-verbally. Communication is a fundamental skill that helps children learn and grow. At an early age, kids might not necessarily use language to communicate, but through play it allows them to develop their language skills and basic literacy.

6. Enhances creativity

Play activities develop creative thinking and allow kids to create new things through trial and error. This can be observed in their drawings or how they build with blocks, for example.

7. Helps create memories

Play is not just for the present, it helps children develop skills for the future. It can be fun and exciting but at the same time allow them to develop skills they need to grow into successful adults.

8. Builds a sense of adventure

Children tend to step out of their comfort zone and explore new things during playtime activities. This allows kids to understand who they are as individuals and what they like, by trying new things and through self-expression.

9. Builds self-confidence and self-esteem

Play allows for children to explore and express themselves freely. It’s a good way to help boost their confidence, especially if they are shy or inhibited.

10. Improves motor skills

Play is fun, but it also sharpens children’s motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination and problem solving. For this reason, it is crucial for young children to engage in play during their early years.

Choosing a Play-Based Learning Toy

The best toy to have for a play-based learning session is one that invites creativity, literacy skills and promotes social interactions. To choose a play-based program toy, consider these factors: 

1. Look for a toy that requires some assembly, is easily designed, or one with interchangeable parts.

2. Look for toys that will introduce concepts and ideas, but don’t overwhelm children.

3. Choose a toy that provides different ways to interact.

4. Aim for toys that come in various colours so it won’t be just a repetitive, dark colour scheme.

5. Choose something durable or with certain components that can be easily replaced if broken

6. Choose toys that can be easily carried around by children.

7. Choose toys that are sustainable and don’t require a lot of packaging.

8. Choose toys that have a wide variety to appeal to different age groups.

9. Look for easily accessible materials, like Lego, Play-Doh or foam bricks.

10. Look for toys that will allow children to explore and discover through play.

What are some games and activities to encourage play-based education?

You don’t need a teacher or childhood educator to create great play-based activities in your daily routine. Anyone can use games and activities to create learning and play that will help with child development. These play-based approaches will teach the alphabet, numbers and colours during childhood.

1. Alphabet Flashcards

play-based learning - teacher using alphabet flashcards to teach kids

These are a great learning tool that can be used both in the classroom and at home. To keep kids engaged, use flashcards with pictures.

For example, the card may have a large apple picture and the letter A. This helps to identify the letter A and apples. You can also add shapes and other symbols that correspond to an object differently to challenge your child further. 

2. Stacking Cups

play-based learning - child playing with stacking cups

Stacking cups or blocks is a fun way for your child to play while also learning new things. Putting together the cups allows your child to develop fine motor skills and learn shapes and colours. This is also a great tool to help teach counting during childhood. Each time you add a block to the tower, encourage your child to count along with you or even use different coloured cups or blocks to help learn colours. 

3. Whiteboard

A whiteboard is a straightforward material to use to create fun and engaging games. For example, you can draw an ABC or 123 on a Whiteboard and challenge your child to call out the answer. This will help with the recognition of letters, shapes and numbers. To make things more interesting, you can also get creative with how you display the number. For example, instead of writing the number four, you can draw four apples.

4. Jigsaws and Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to challenge your child, but they can also be a great way for you to spend time together. This simple game also helps develop problem-solving skills.

5. Play-Doh and Modelling Clay

play-based learning - child playing with play-doh

Play-Doh is a great way to get creative and good for fine motor skills development. Play-Doh can be used in many ways, but to help develop learning, it is best to encourage your child to create familiar objects such as stick people, numbers or letters. To add an educational benefit, you can also use play dough and make letters out of Play-Doh. 

Do you want to explore more ideas? Get recommendations by reaching out at info@littlescribblers.com.au.

Summary

Children spend the first few years of their life developing and learning, so it’s important to provide them with a safe environment where they can explore. The best way for children to learn is through playtime, which helps them develop social skills, emotional regulation and creativity. 

Have you considered enrolling your child at a centre that helps build a strong foundation for the future? See Little Scribblers’ Early Learning Program.