The Importance of Play Based Learning at Home and in School
Developing a passion for learning in our little ones can be as simple as involving them in their own learning, especially in those early years. What a daunting thought as I watch my daughter dump the better part of an entire box of cheerios on the floor. How can I harness her interests and encourage learning when there are a million tiny pieces of cereal being ground into the kitchen tile? But my Busy Bee, like so many her age, thrives in a situation where learning can take place through play. Here, she’s learning to pour, the weight of the box both empty and full, volume of the bowl she intended to fill, the movement of the cheerios across the floor, and so so much more. This theory is highly researched, supported and understood but yet we still find it miles away from the educational approaches found in a traditional classroom.
I come from a background in Educational Psychology – studying the motivation of learning – but I know without a doubt I still have so much more to learn about the mind and how it works – how we learn and how we come to find our passions, talents and creativity. I have been so blessed to have guides and teachers of all sorts but the most incredible of those profound thinkers is my two year old daughter.
What she has taught me
Children connect to their environment in a way we seem to forget how to do as adults. They are intrigued by what they find around them, such as the box of cereal, as if each time they see it, it is filled with entirely new possibility and without the worry of time management or other pressing priorities that I know I find myself thinking if a similar situation was to come my way.
Learning through play is not new, but our understanding and the value we place on play has changed over the years. It’s difficult from an educator’s perspective, having to illustrate and prove learning to parents or administration (the problem to begin with… I’ll save that for another day), that something valuable has come from zoning into play dough for 25 minutes. But we know it to be true!
What Learning through Play looks like:
- the child chooses to take part and is motivated to continue
- flexible and changing
- open-ended discovery
- becoming lost in the experience
- no outcome is expected
Benefits of Learning through Play:
- play can cross cultures
- become a means of communication between children, parents, teachers
- new skills are applied and developed
- safe space for experimentation
- relationship and social skill building
- cognitive development
- and so much more…
A few years ago, I attended a conference where I met Sir Ken Robinson – a high point in my training and career. Embarrassingly, when given the opportunity to speak to my guru, I clammed up and stumbled over my words. I was at a loss for sharing with the man who sparked my own passion behind learning through play that in my collection of books, his were underlined and highlighted beyond recognition, and that he put into words what my vision for education was.
I’ll let you hear for yourself, how he beautifully describes the importance of finding our passion, and letting our children learn who they are through play.
The Importance of Play to Children’s Learning and Development
I have no idea what my now two year old will do when she grows up. It’s likely she will do something that doesn’t yet exist (as noted by Sir Ken Robinson in the video above), just as I now do something I would never have imagined possible for myself. Empowering children to follow their passions will prepare them for a world of possibility. Allowing them to play their way to understanding, to test theories, to practice what they know in a safe and flexible way will inspire them to be the creators of the future, to construct a life that our adult minds can’t yet fathom. We can let them be little, creative explorers, for tomorrow has yet to be discovered. Learning through play could very well change the world for the better.
Do you see your local school systems encouraging children to learn through play? How do you feel about the way your child is invited to learn something new? I would love to hear your perspectives on learning through play!