Why Play Based Learning?

So what is play based learning?

Play based learning is not a complicated concept, and it is likely that even if you know nothing about this form of learning you are utilizing it in your home.  Play based learning is the idea that knowledge can be acquired (particularly in young children) through play rather than traditional/formal education. It allows children to actively engage with people, objects, and representations. It allows children to organize and make sense of their social world.  It allows children to create meaning and make discoveries, rather than be told how to think.


Why choose play based learning?

This is really a no brainer for babies and toddlers, and is the only way to “teach” children this young new concepts and ideas without wanting to rip your hair out.  With no guidance from adults, children engage in play.  This is not just for entertainment, it is how they learn about their new and constantly expanding world.  Studies (mostly focused on infants to preschool aged children) have proven that not only do children learn MORE when engaging in play based learning vs formal education, but their social and emotional development is stimulated, making them more capable of appropriate interaction with their peers.


How do I create play based learning activities for my children?

The great part about play based learning is you don’t need to over plan for it! What do you have in your home that you could explore with your child? Could you practice colors, shapes, numbers etc in a fun and engaging way? Could you make a tedious activity like cooking dinner, or cleaning up the house fun by helping your child discover something new while doing it? There is no wrong way to play, and there is a learning opportunity in almost anything you do!

Most importantly, don’t forget- let kids be kids! Even when you are not engaging in planned activities your child is learning.


So what else should you know about play based learning?

Check out this fantastic article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children that really sums it all up, than get to playing!

10 Things Every Parent Should Know about Play- By Laurel Bongiorno

1.  Children learn through their play.  Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:
cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store
physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground
new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs
social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash
literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant
2. Play is healthy.  Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.

3. Play reduces stress.  Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.

4. Play is more than meets the eye.  Play is simple and complex.  There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects:  how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.

5. Make time for play.  As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.

6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.  They are not separate activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.

7. Play outside.  Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.

8. There’s a lot to learn about play.  There’s a lot written on children and play. Here are some NAEYC articles and books about play. David Elkind’s The Power of Play (Da Capo, 2007 reprint) is also a great resource.

9. Trust your own playful instincts.  Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.

10. Play is a child’s context for learning.  Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and  make out checks.  Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.