Learning through play
Young children learn and develop quickly. They learn through all their senses by tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling. They learn language and behaviour through watching and copying people close to them.
One of the main ways in which children learn is through play. It gives a child a sense of his or her own abilities, builds self worth and helps them to feel good about themselves. Because play is fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing, which in turn helps them to develop the ability to concentrate.
What is the importance of play for pre-school children?
As well as being pure and simple ‘fun’, play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self expression.
Dramatic play in particular is essential to a child’s social (or emotional) development and can play a large part in their physical development too. Children make sense of the world by acting out situations before they happen and by copying what they see around them. They learn to see life from a different viewpoint and it also allows them to ‘trial’ situations before they happen.
Imaginative play is closely linked to intellectual development. Most children are naturally imaginative and will happily talk away to someone on their toy phone or drive the sofa to the shops, and this creativity should be actively encouraged!
Here are some ideas to encourage different types of learning through fun organised activities with your kids:
- Sand and water play can be an early introduction to science and maths – learning that water is fluid, not solid, and that it can be measured in different sized containers
- Playing with dough, drawing and painting pictures, dressing up and playing with dolls can encourage creativity, imagination and expression of feelings
- Building blocks, jigsaws and shape sorters can help with recognising different shapes and sizes, putting things in order and developing logic
- Playing ball games, dancing, running and climbing all help to develop body movement, strength, flexibility and co-ordination skills
- Games help with turn taking, sharing and mixing with others
- Singing, playing simple musical instruments help to develop rhythm, listening and hearing skills
It’s important that learning is fun at this age. It needs to be about doing things with them that they like. They might find unusual ways of doing things – for a toddler, building blocks aren’t just for making towers, and paint can be used without a brush! We know a 2 year old who likes to paint with her nose – brilliant! Show them how things work, but if they want to experiment, let them.
Don’t push your child too hard. Children develop in their own ways and in their own time. Try not to compare them to other children. You can also encourage reading, by reading to and with them. Look at the pictures together; this will help younger children make sense of the words.
It’s also good to talk to them a lot, about everyday things while you are cooking or cleaning. This will give you a chance to teach them how things work and they will be able to ask you questions. Get ready for lots of “why’s?”