Play is paramount to a childs early childhood learning
From earliest infancy play is the primary way children learn. Through play, children eagerly use all the tools they have at their disposal – their bodies, their relationships with their family and peers and the world around them. Play, more often than any other activity fuels healthy development of young children. It is through play that much of childrens early learning is achieved.
Children play because it is fun. Play takes many forms, but the heart of play is pleasure and with pleasure comes the powerful drive to repeat such activities. With repetition comes mastery and mastery brings a sense of accomplishment and confidence. This then leads to learning.
Through play, children learn about themselves, their environment, people and the world around them. As they play, children learn to solve problems and to get along with others. They enhance their creativity and develop leadership skills and healthy personalities. Play develops skills children need to learn and read and write. Play in early childhood is the best foundation for success in school life.
As a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance, physical skills are developed. Dexterity to handle pencils and pens develop when the child handles small objects, toys or play tools.
Language increases as a child plays and interacts with others. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are important interpersonal lifetime skills, all of which play fosters. Positive interaction with others is integral in all classroom environments.
Positive play experiences develop positive emotional well-being. Through play and imagination a child can fulfil wishes and overcome fears of unpleasant experiences. Play helps the child master their environment. When children feel secure, safe, successful and capable they acquire important components of positive emotional health. Sharing play experiences also can create strong bonds between adults and children increasing mental health.
How Play Supports Childrens Lifelong Learning Journey
Childrens cognitive skills are enhanced. Through play children learn about concepts, how to group and classify objects, how to make sense of things and events and how to solve problems. Play often involves trial and error and problem solving tasks. Play requires a child to make choices, direct activities and make plans to reach a goal. This is the beginning of numeracy, literacy and scientific reasoning.
Children develop and refine motor skills. Through play, children develop control and coordination of muscles that are needed to walk, kick, eat or write. Gross motor can be enhanced when older children jump, climb, kick balls and build large structures. Fine motor and manipulation are developed when pre-schoolers use their fingers to strong beads for a necklace or write with a pencil on paper. When children are using puzzles or manipulating paly dough they are also practicing hand-eye coordination and simultaneously working on their ability to grasp pencils, rulers and to confidently use scissors.
When children kick, throw and catch a ball, they are practising whole body coordination, balance and developing large muscle control, tone and flexibility to take part in sports.
Children enhance language skills throughout their kinder day in many ways. Talking, singing, rhyming and word play help them to master the rules and sounds of language and developing literacy skills while they have fun. The skills will be important when speaking to others and when presenting in front of peers.
Children gain social and emotional skills. Play develops imagination and creativity and gives children practice in social skills such as waiting, negotiating, taking turns, cooperating, to compromise, share and express emotions. As children learn about themselves and the world they acquire self confidence, self reliance and self expression. This preparation is the building block to scholastic confidence and success.
Ten quotes about the importance of play – what our experts say:
“Play is the work of the child” – Maria Montessori
“Play is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein
“It is a happy talent to know how to play” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning” – Mr Rogers
“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality, the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery” – Erik H Erikson
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn” – O Fred Donaldson
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct” – Carl Jung
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” – George Bernard Shaw
“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play” – Plato
“Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood” – Fred Rogers