How Will My Child Learn?

kids make letters out of wooden shapes on the floor“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” – Leo Buscaglia

Toys, art materials, and sensory items like play dough and shaving cream are fun, but they are also tools that help children learn about themselves and the world around them. Play is critical to the healthy growth and development of our children. As they play, children learn to solve problems, to become curious, and to take initiative. They learn to get along with others and to develop the fine and gross motor skills needed to grow and learn. Play helps a child do the following:

Develop physical skills. Gross motor skills are developed as a child learns to reach, grasp, jump, run, climb, balance, and handle large materials. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys, use scissors, stickers, play with play dough, and handle writing tools.

girls examine animal skull with antlersDevelop cognitive concepts. Children learn to solve problems and find out how things work. (What does this do? Does this puzzle piece fit here?). Children learn colors, numbers, letters, size, and shapes by using manipulatives, mixing paints, counting, measuring, sorting, and sequencing. They learn science and math through studying their environment, observing nature, playing with blocks, planting, and caring for the class guinea pig. They have the ability to enhance their memory skills as well as their attention span. Children move on to higher levels of thought when they are actively engaged and play in a stimulating environment.

Develop language and pre-literacy skills. Language develops as a child plays and interacts with others. This begins when parents play cooing games with their babies, and advances to practical levels such as describing things to someone else, telling a joke, predicting a plot to a book, or creating stories and books of their own. The entire process lays an important foundation for literacy skills.

Develop social/emotional skills. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns, and play by the rules are all important skills learned in early games. Children develop self-esteem as they create their own artwork or block masterpiece and learn to be resilient when they face adversity such as when that block tower tumbles! These skills grow as the child plays, and as a result, children learn the rules and roles of society.

Some articles about the importance of play-based learning:

New York Times: “Let the Kids Learn Through Play” (May 2015)

Psychology Today: “Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm” (May 2015)

kids cut and play with legos wearing animal earsgirls play with rainbow streamers

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