Updated: Sep 26, 2022
“Children learn as they play. More importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.” – Fred Donaldson
One of the universal ways that all children learn is through play. That’s why you’ll always notice that schools take time for recess, not just to give kids a break throughout the day but also so they can engage in unguided play. But what about guided play? In recent years, it seems as though guided play in the classroom to help students reach educational benchmarks has somewhat taken a back seat in the academic world. However, we’re here to bring the benefits of learning through play back to the forefront of the conversation. So, today, let’s explore learning through play and five of its benefits for educational development.
1. Improve Literacy and Communication Skills
One of the most significant benefits of learning through play is that it will help improve your child’s literacy and communications skills. Whether your child engages in solo or group play, guided or unguided, they are developing important speech and language skills as well as listening skills. Consider this, your child plays alone in an unguided manner with their favourite toy and narrates what’s happening to themselves as they maneuver the toys. Maybe the firetruck is needed at the grocery store, or Barbie is arguing with Ken. This is a very common example of learning through play that most children will engage in throughout their childhood that fosters things like word learning, social skills, and independent play. On the other hand, using guided play in the classroom or during tutoring sessions gives your child the opportunity to communicate purpose and organizational ideas with others. It’s also an excellent chance to hone their listening skills and practice being cooperative with other students. Ultimately, learning through play is a critical way for children to improve their literacy and communication skills as they grow and should be integrated into classroom and tutoring structures further so students can receive the most benefits.
2. Develop Problem-Solving and Social Skills
Beyond improving your child’s communication skills, learning through play is also essential to develop problem-solving and social skills. Particularly in instances where there is a group play scenario, learning how to work well with others to solve problems is a crucial skill needed for the rest of their life. (And if you don’t think so, just think about that one person from the office you just can’t stand, and THAT’s why it’s important to learn how to play nice with others at a young age.) Now, it does depend on the style of game being played, but there is often some type of plot that involves an issue that needs resolving achieved by successfully accomplishing a certain task to receive the ‘prize.’ For example, perhaps your team needs to rescue the queen from her tower by answering specific questions faster and more accurately than the other team in order to save her first. Not only does this allow for some healthy competition to spring up, but it also helps children learn how to effectively work together and communicate, thereby developing their problem-solving and social skills.
3. Develop Motor Skills and Foster Cognitive Growth
When your child plays a game, even if they’ve played it before, it helps them develop fine and gross motor skills and fosters their cognitive growth. For example, suppose your youngster likes to name the shapes before dropping them through their respective holes into the toy. In this case, they are developing their cognitive thinking skills by not only identifying the shape but also properly matching it to the right shaped hole in order for it to fall through. They also must have well-developed motor skills to match them properly, meaning a simple game like matching the shape to the hole is actually working double or triple duty to help your child learn through play. Plus, children are almost always innately competitive. This means that each time your child engages in a game they’ve already played, they’re looking to improve or be better than last time, which further promotes cognitive growth and development. Finally, something else to remember is that physical play is just as important for developing fine and gross motor skills as intellectual games are. For example, skipping takes balance and coordination, while something like monkey bars builds strength and resilience. As your child begins to learn through play, keep in mind that these techniques can work through both intellectual and physical play.
4. Nurture their Imagination and Creativity
Sometimes your child might become bored of the same games each day during unguided play and begin to make up their own fresh games. This is their imagination and creativity kicking into overdrive which is great for your child’s critical thinking and skill development. In order to nurture their imagination and creativity further, allow your child to explore these scenarios unhindered, try to play along (if they include you at all!), and let them lead with their newfound thoughts and ideas. Pretending or imaginative play is one of the foundations of a child’s world, making it critical to their overall development. Plus, studies have shown that children who pretend play in this way have more sophisticated levels of interactions with others and higher cognitive abilities. There are also opportunities to nurture their imagination and creativity during guided play in the classroom, particularly when using these skills to overcome challenges. Being able to come up with a creative solution for a problem in order to achieve a certain goal as a child will help them become more forward-thinking and resolution-orientated adults as they grow.
5. Build Confidence and Discover their Independence
Children and students aren’t born with all-star confidence. Instead, confidence is created over time by slowly building positive self-esteem as children discover their independence. That’s also why we recommend allowing your child to explore their imagination through play unhindered, because it will enable them to uncover their own identity, realize their independence, and build confidence. Furthermore, discovering their own independence doesn’t have to only occur through solo play. In fact, playing in a group setting can highlight this independence. For example, suppose your child disagrees with another student’s idea. In that case, it’s showing them that they have ideas independent from other children that are not only just as valid as the other students but that they should be confident in. Without confidence, your child’s ability to take risks and try new things during play is compromised. Thankfully, games, both guided and unguided, allow children to slowly explore these aspects of their personality so that over time they can truly build confidence and discover their own independence.
Most parents have a general idea of why learning through play is so crucial for their children, but hopefully, now you understand why it’s so important and how to foster growth through play. For one, it helps improve their literacy and communications skills with others while also developing problem-solving and social skills. These types of skills are the foundation from which your child is then able to grow. Using games for learning will also help them develop motor skills while fostering their cognitive growth, once again setting them up for success later down the line. On the other hand, learning through play is important to nurture their imagination and creativity, which can also help them become creative problem-solvers later in life. Lastly, play is essential for helping students build confidence and discover their independence so they can grow into well-rounded adults ready to take on the world.
If you or your child requires additional educational support across any area of study, why not try out Knowledge Bump tutoring? Our specialized programming includes opportunities to learn through play by utilizing case-specific games to help students understand educational concepts and build academic confidence. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today, and let’s put the ‘fun’ back into functional learning.