Renowned psychologist specializing in child development, Jean Piaget, once asked if the goal of education was learning what we already know or developing creative minds to discover new things throughout life. Ideally, it takes a little of both in a lifelong quest for knowledge and innovation. It all starts with exploring when we are young. Studies show that when children have positive learning experiences through play early in life, they thrive in many ways:
- longer life expectancy
- better overall health
- improved ability to manage stress
- greater social and emotional abilities to form deeper relationships
Developing brains need to be nurtured through natural environments. But the modern classroom, combined with increasing virtual educations, may restrict playful activity, creativity, and discovery in nature.
What is Play-Based Learning?
Play is an impulse hardwired into human development and is crucial to the natural learning process. Children love to play, and parents and teachers need to support and encourage playful learning with questions, stretching their ability to think outside the box. It begins by nurturing their interests and developing educational strategies around them. Activities should pose questions such as, “How big can this get? How many pieces do you need? What is it made from? What else can you do with it?” to introduce awareness to mathematics, science, and language. Simple questions increase social, emotional, and cognitive skills and add self-confidence to try new experiences and explore environments.
Why is Play Important?
Real‐life and imaginary activities challenge a child’s thinking through experiences they can build on and help develop skills in language, ideas, and concentration. When all senses are being used, they can convey thoughts and connect what they already know with new skills and see what works.
Early on, children begin to equate symbols to meaning, learning to read and tell stories. This leads to negotiating (sharing and taking turns), problem-solving, and improvising in social situations with peers. And they learn about other children’s ideas and activities in the process.
Children use play to explore, discover, and master their environment. It takes focus and concentration for a child to engage in flexible thinking. Today’s technology makes it critical for kids to approach problem-solving, analyzing, and evaluating by applying knowledge, innovation, and creativity.
Playful experiences create positive attitudes toward learning and encourage imagination, curiosity, and enthusiasm. These aren’t things children can learn by remembering facts.
How Does Play-Based Learning Enhance Mental Skills?
Children are naturally motivated to explore and experiment, which requires the ability to retain information. Strategic games help them learn to make plans and change them as needed during games. This engages other critical skills like controlling inhibitions and mental flexibility that, in turn, enhance meaningful social interactions.
How Does Play Promote Active Learning?
Active learning works to develop both gross and fine motor skills through play. Children explore spatial relationships and physical abilities. They need to have many sensory experiences daily to grow strong bodies and minds. Senses can be more fully engaged outside in nature, where kids are challenged by unpredictable terrain.
How Does Play Develop Soft Skills?
Children build language skills and cooperate with others to cultivate social skills and discover new talents. They build self-esteem through accomplishment, which opens them to trying new experiences again. Playful learning is critical to social development and interpersonal skills like listening, negotiating, and compromising.
Why Does “Let’s Go Out of the Box” Encourage Play-Based Learning?
At Let’s Go Out of the Box, we understand the goals of education, how learning works, and when to apply specific activities. Every child learns through play, and we lean into it. Moms and teachers design our monthly activity boxes to be fun, engaging, and challenging for all ages. We boost playful learning to help kids explore naturally and encourage being outdoors for full sensory experiences. Learning should be approached with excitement and wonder!
We offer ideas for keeping kids enthusiastic about learning and being outdoors on our Facebook community page. And you can set up a subscription account whenever you are ready to try us out. Parents and grandparents give our activity boxes five-star reviews!
Edmentem blog, 2021. Play-Based Learning: What It Is and Why It Should Be a Part of Every Classroom, https://blog.edmentum.com/play-based-learning-what-it-and-why-it-should-be-part-every-classroom
Harvard Center on the Developing Child, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/the-foundations-of-lifelong-health-are-built-in-early-childhood/