The importance of play-based learning for children in Early Years | SISD
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Jun 22, 2021

The importance of play-based learning for children in Early Years

Play-based learning programmes use play as a context for learning. These programmes allow children to experiment, explore, and solve problems in playful ways. Interactions between the student and teacher encourage inquiry and learning that stretches the child’s thinking to higher levels.

In this blog, we’ll talk about 5 reasons why play-based learning is important for children ages 2 to 7.

Active learning

In active learning, children have more active input into what and how they learn. A child’s brain is engaged in multiple ways. By exploring their natural and social environments, they develop motor skills and discover spatial relationships. The early years are when children’s senses should be fully engaged and they need to have multiple whole-body sensory experiences daily to develop their bodies and minds.

While teachers can facilitate this type of learning, a well-equipped and intentional classroom is equally effective. For example, a kitchen or cooking area might contain a water table, measuring cups, dishes, and pretend food. This type of play-based learning centre touches on speaking and listening. Adding in paper and writing materials for recipes and lists can incorporate language arts. Play-based learning at its best uses the environment as a teacher, where every activity and object in the space has a purpose and adds to the learning experience.

The IB PYP Programme was developed to recognise that young learners are intelligent, resourceful and creative individuals who grow, develop and learn at different rates. They explore their environment and learn about their world through play and relationships with peers, teachers, family and community members. Early learning in the PYP is a holistic learning experience that integrates socio-emotional, physical and cognitive development. In the PYP classroom, it takes place in dynamic environments that promote play, discovery and exploration.

Executive function

Play-based learning programmes build on a child’s motivation to play. Children develop their executive function skills by practicing their ability to retain information. When students play games involving strategy such as Battleship, checkers, Hide-and-Go-Seek, I Spy, Simon Says, or tic-tac-toe, they make plans and adjust those plans in response to what happens during the game, engaging critical skills like cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory.

The processes and skills children gain in play-based programmes cannot be replicated in learning where there’s an emphasis on remembering facts.

Literacy skills

Play is the earliest form of storytelling. Children first learn and express symbolic thought, a necessary precursor to literacy. Research indicates literacy skills are linked to the increased complexity of language and learning processes children use in play-based programmes. Teachers can ask questions to encourage hypothesising, prediction, and problem solving, and bring awareness to mathematics, science and literacy, allowing children to engage with these concepts as they play. Children test out knowledge and theories and reenact experiences to solidify their understanding. Storytelling is how children learn how to improvise, negotiate with peers, and solve problems.

This includes understanding the structure and meanings of words. One study found children’s vocabulary and storytelling ability was higher in a play-based classroom than a traditional classroom. In addition to improving play skills and narrative language ability, the play-based curriculum had a positive influence on grammar acquisition. Neuroscientists found play activates the brain in meaningful ways that rote memorisation, testing, worksheets, and other traditional classroom techniques don’t.

Soft skills development

In play-based learning, while children build language skills, they cultivate their social skills, competencies, and learning disposition. They are most receptive to learning and exploration and persist to learn something new or solve a problem. The experience of working through a challenging situation successfully gives children the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

Interpersonal skills like listening, negotiating, and compromising can be challenging for four and five-year-olds. Through play, children practice social and language skills, think creatively, and gather information about their environments. They learn to cooperate, negotiate,  respond to ideas, resolve conflicts, and share. When children come up with their own games, they exercise creati

The importance of play-based learning for children in Early Years

Play-based learning programmes use play as a context for learning. These programmes allow children to experiment, explore, and solve problems in playful ways. Interactions between the student and teacher encourage inquiry and learning that stretches the child’s thinking to higher levels.

In this blog, we’ll talk about 5 reasons why play-based learning is important for children ages 2 to 7.

Active learning

In active learning, children have more active input into what and how they learn. A child’s brain is engaged in multiple ways. By exploring their natural and social environments, they develop motor skills and discover spatial relationships. The early years are when children’s senses should be fully engaged and they need to have multiple whole-body sensory experiences daily to develop their bodies and minds.

While teachers can facilitate this type of learning, a well-equipped and intentional classroom is equally effective. For example, a kitchen or cooking area might contain a water table, measuring cups, dishes, and pretend food. This type of play-based learning centre touches on speaking and listening. Adding in paper and writing materials for recipes and lists can incorporate language arts. Play-based learning at its best uses the environment as a teacher, where every activity and object in the space has a purpose and adds to the learning experience.

The IB PYP Programme was developed to recognise that young learners are intelligent, resourceful and creative individuals who grow, develop and learn at different rates. They explore their environment and learn about their world through play and relationships with peers, teachers, family and community members. Early learning in the PYP is a holistic learning experience that integrates socio-emotional, physical and cognitive development. In the PYP classroom, it takes place in dynamic environments that promote play, discovery and exploration.

Executive function

Play-based learning programmes build on a child’s motivation to play. Children develop their executive function skills by practicing their ability to retain information. When students play games involving strategy such as Battleship, checkers, Hide-and-Go-Seek, I Spy, Simon Says, or tic-tac-toe, they make plans and adjust those plans in response to what happens during the game, engaging critical skills like cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory.

The processes and skills children gain in play-based programmes cannot be replicated in learning where there’s an emphasis on remembering facts.

Literacy skills

Play is the earliest form of storytelling. Children first learn and express symbolic thought, a necessary precursor to literacy. Research indicates literacy skills are linked to the increased complexity of language and learning processes children use in play-based programmes. Teachers can ask questions to encourage hypothesising, prediction, and problem solving, and bring awareness to mathematics, science and literacy, allowing children to engage with these concepts as they play. Children test out knowledge and theories and reenact experiences to solidify their understanding. Storytelling is how children learn how to improvise, negotiate with peers, and solve problems.

This includes understanding the structure and meanings of words. One study found children’s vocabulary and storytelling ability was higher in a play-based classroom than a traditional classroom. In addition to improving play skills and narrative language ability, the play-based curriculum had a positive influence on grammar acquisition. Neuroscientists found play activates the brain in meaningful ways that rote memorisation, testing, worksheets, and other traditional classroom techniques don’t.

Soft skills development

In play-based learning, while children build language skills, they cultivate their social skills, competencies, and learning disposition. They are most receptive to learning and exploration and persist to learn something new or solve a problem. The experience of working through a challenging situation successfully gives children the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

Interpersonal skills like listening, negotiating, and compromising can be challenging for four and five-year-olds. Through play, children practice social and language skills, think creatively, and gather information about their environments. They learn to cooperate, negotiate,  respond to ideas, resolve conflicts, and share. When children come up with their own games, they exercise creativity and flexibility, as their “rules” of the game are continually negotiated.

Educators and researchers alike agree: play is a critical part of childhood learning.

At SISD, we encourage play-based learning for our Early Years students. Our classrooms are designed to encourage play inside and outside the classroom. We have numerous climbing frames, play areas, courts, a mud garden, water-based play, and multi-purpose rooms to encourage play time. We encourage children to be inquirers, independent learners, and researchers – to ask questions, to explore and to instill a love of learning that lasts a lifetime!

For more information about our Early Years programme, contact our Admissions team at admissions@sisd.ae.