Play is universal and is an entitlement of childhood. Play is unprompted, it is natural, gratifying and it is fun. Play boasts many benefits:
- It enables children to learn and build skills that lay the foundation for learning to read, write and do mathematics.
- It gives children the chance to socialise with peers the same age, and to learn to understand other children, and to communicate and negotiate with them.
- It inspires children to learn, imagine, categorise and problem-solve.
- It provides children with the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings.
Within the context of education, there are two forms of play, namely free play and guided or structured play.
Free play is pupil centred play, and is guided solely by children themselves. The pupils choose how they are going to play and what to play with. With this type of play there is room for much imagination and creativity. There are several benefits to this form of play including conflict negotiation, collaboration skills, problem-solving skills and social-emotional growth.
Structured play on the other hand, is guided by the teacher. In this instance the teacher will provide instructions based on academic content or social skills, which can be written on the School Dry wipe magnetic whiteboard. The teacher will take control of the play environment by structuring it in such a way that it guides pupils to learn specific content. There are several benefits to this form of play including following directions, strategising and cooperative skills.
“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth” (Ginsburg, 2013).
Play is a tool that children use to discover and learn about society and the world in which they live. Through play, their social and cognitive needs can be met and developed. Play is the way that children relate with the world and in turn generate experiences to understand society and human cooperation.
Play helps children to become effective problem solvers because during play children make and resolve their own problems. When a child is asked to solve an educational or real-life problem, they are then able to relate and use the skills that they have practiced during play to find a solution.
Play contributes towards developing the whole child. Through play a child’s imagination, physical and cognitive abilities are improved and strengthened. Using play as a tool to teach in the early childhood classroom will bring a holistic approach to the content and will help develop every part of each child.
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development” (Ginsburg, 2013).
Through play, children can synthesise and internalise information that they have learnt. After teaching a lesson, allowing children to play will help them put the information they have just learnt into imaginary “real-world” situations. If play cannot be used within the lessons to teach the content, then it is important to use it after the content is taught to help children internalise what they have just learnt.
6 Key Reasons for Play:
- Promotes problem-solving
- Helps children learn about the world and society
- Promotes creativity, imagination, cognitive, social, and emotional development
- Can be used to deepen understanding of classroom content
- Enhances language and cultural development
- Play is an important part of the classroom because it helps develop the child in ways that other strategies and approaches cannot. The art of play will develop the whole child, not just the cognitive parts.
Learning through play is a term used in education and psychology to describe how a child can learn to make sense of the world around them. Through play children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.
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