Benefits of Learning Through Play
Every child deserves the right to develop their own unique identity and one of the most important contributors to this is learning through play.
There are many benefits of learning through play for children from one month of age right through into teens.
When a child is playing this allows for greater interaction between parent and child which can bring them closer, as well as grasping a better understanding of their child.
Learning through play is what develops a child’s mind and encourages them to want to learn.
Like a new flower bud opening up to the rays of the sun a baby’s brain starts to learn and take in information in from the first feel of their mother’s touch to a pretty colour that catches their eye. Playing is crucial to a baby
because this is how their brain starts to connect the dots and the more you play the more dots they connect.
Many parents think they have to buy top of the line educational toys that usually costs a lot whereas, in fact, the child will be just as happy with playing with the box the toy came in to them, the whole world around them is new for instance when you give them a teddy it is not just the shape of the teddy that will fascinate them but the texture, smell, colour and feel of the toy.
The Six Stages of Early Childhood Play
Whether learning through play is organized, unstructured or random children will go through different development stages.
Each stage is a crucial part in the child early development where they will learn important life skills and start to become their own little person.
Throughout the stages they learn how to solve problems, interact with others, share, the will learn cause and effect, learn to take risks and grow their imagination. Given room to play, explore and discover opens up a whole world of wonder for a child and can help encourage a love of learning.
Stage 1 — Unoccupied Play this is usually for babies between the ages of 0 to 3 months old.
At this stage, everything around them is new, parents become the most favourite toys as they play, cuddle and make a silly noise. Every touch, sense, and smell are registering which is helping with their learning.
As they become more alert, they start to respond to a parent smile and touch, they will start to grab onto things that come into contact with. This is also a stage that a parent starts to forge a bond with the baby.
Toys and Activities:
• A bright cot mobile especially those that turn and play a soft tune
• A baby bouncy chair this allows them to move freely and as it does gives them a gentle bounce. They usually come with a few soft toys attached to the overhang handle that move and baby can grab or kick. They are also a great way to get them to fall asleep.
• Showing them pictures of faces or holding up a little mirror for them to see themselves in the mirror.
• Baby mats with an overhead mobile and or a baby gym.
Stage 2 – Solitary Play, this form of play start from birth through to age 2
At this age, children are not quite ready to interact with others and have not grasped the full concept of sharing.
They have just started to realize about cause and effect, have just recently started to walk, some are probably just being weaned off their bottle or are starting potty training. They have a whole lot going on in their little worlds so the last thing they want to do is have to share or wait in line to play with their favourite toy.
This does not mean they will not interact with other kids it just means that they usually prefer to build their own house of blocks over here while the other kids play over there.
If they are at the age between 4 to 7 months, they probably do not even notice the other child yet. By the age of 7 to 9 months, their attention span grows a bit more. Their interest will become a bit more fixed on an item such as a ball, toy phone, animals in storybooks and they start to recognize their bath toys.
By the time they get to between 10 to 12 months they start to enjoy toys that move, puzzles, building blocks, crayons, water, their walker and they will also start to enjoy playing in the sand.
Toys and activities:
4 to 7 months
Some of the best toys for learning through play for this age range are textured toys, brightly coloured toys, rattles, musical toys basically anything that is bright and can make a noise.
Toys that wobble side to side when pushed, soft toys or those with the squeaker in the middle will attract their attention.
8 to 10 months
Various odds and ends of mixed toys that are age appropriate, soft and of different textures, colours, shapes, etc. These are great to put into a basket and allow them to rifle through the basket and let them choose which toy they would like to play with.
• Building Blocks that they can stack.
• Shape sorter cube, one which that they can easily open and get the shapes out then try to push them through the correct holes.
• Little toys that mimic their parents like a set of play keys or a mobile phone that plays a fun tune and has buttons they can push.
• Anything with pullies and levers that are not too hard to operate, age appropriate toys here as if it is to old for them they will not play with this toy.
• Little trollies with play food
11 to 24 months
A this age they start to develop an interest in drawing, colouring, painting.
• Anything with wheels or parts that move and can be easily pushed.
• Sand with shapes, spades, and buckets basically some messy play in sand.
From 4 months to 2 years
At this age you are starting to introduce problem solving games.
- Building blocks with the intention of the child building these to high with the intention of having them to tip it over, not only is this great fun for the child but also helps them in learning through play you develop constructive skills, basic skills for physics and three dimensional thinking without them knowing they are learning.
- Doing age-appropriate puzzles, do this together to help them grasp the concept and have some fun, this will also help with cognitive skills and emotional skills as the child will need to learn patience how they figure out all the pieces fit together.
- Reading a book which has lots of pictures in it, also pointing out the animals, farmer, scooter, etc. As you repeat this book over time as your child what is the animal so they learn from pictures what the animals are.
- Playing peek-a-boo or as they get a little older easy hide and seek as this will help your child develop problem solving skills e.g. when they need to find someone or choose the best hiding place.
- Playing raspberry tummy by blowing loud raspberry kisses on their tummy obviously this is aimed at the younger age range here but is some good old bonding fun.
- Helping them to clap their hands whilst singing a song or singing songs with actions and playing them out.
Stage 3- Spectator stage usually at 2 Years of age
At the age of 2, a child begins to notice their peers. They want to see what they are doing and how they do it.
The child tends to shy away from joining in on play but when the other child or children leave you may see them trying out the toy or activity the other children were playing on their own.
There is not much you can do at this age except try and be supportive and encouraging. Try to engage them in the activity or the game they were just watching the others play. Raise their confidence enough to want to play it again and the next step a group of children are playing this they will have confidence to join in.
Stage 4 Parallel Play between the ages of 2 and 3 years old
Stage 3 and stage 4 basically overlap each other. As the child will observe others at play and may mimic the activity on their own or alongside the others.
This is the transition stage between observing play and starting to join in with play. They will still stick to the outskirts and might not join in but they will get closer and closer to the group as they feel more confident and comfortable.
Stage 5 – Associate Play from ages 3 to 4 years old
This is the stage where the child becomes confident enough to join in with other at play but may not actually play with them as of yet. They will swing on a swing next to another child, dig in the sandpit where the other child is digging but will as yet not join in with the other child. Slowly they will start to integrate and either follow another’s lead or have them follow.
Stage 6 – This is called the cooperative play stage and happens from ages 4 and upwards this is when they start to make their first best friends, find common interests and start to play games together. They start to role-play, interact with groups for various activities like playing catch and hide and seek etc. Most educational toys or even those just meant for play come with a good indication of what age group they are meant for, trying to give a child an educational toy that are meant for a much more older child on a younger is not going to make them develop any faster and will just end up not playing with the toy correctly or become frustrated as the toy is to advance for them.
What we as parents have to remember is that every child is different and just because you may have been a prodigy at their age does not mean they are or will be.
It is very important to give them the room to advance at their own pace and remember to be nurturing and supportive at all turns. Encouragement challenges them to push the boundaries whilst criticism even that meant to help damages their confidence in one way or the other!
Encouraging your child to learn whilst playing
There are few ways to encourage your child to learn through play and each one them will enhance and develop a certain skill set. Learning through play I have given a brief outline on what you could do with your child to help them develop through play.
1. Play some games with them or teach them how to play a physical activity game, this could be kicking a ball or learning how to ride a bike, scooter, playing Frisbee etc..
2. Give them challenges that require them to use their imagination or give them ideas on various game scenarios to play and let them take it from there. Kids have the most amazing minds and live in a world full of wonders. Einstein was big on imaginations and one of my favourites of his saying is “imagination is intelligence” having fun. This is so true of the young developing mind!
3. Play board games. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned board game to bring the family together. Have some laughs and inspire the children as a lot of board games are designed to help with various cognitive skill and teach a child how to strategize. It is also a sneaky way to increase general knowledge.
4. There is no escaping technology so limit their daily time allowed on a phone or tablet and give them a bit of internet time for good behaviour and helping around the house such as tidying toys etc…
5. Encourage outdoor activities and play, bring old favourites like hop-scotch, skipping, washable chalk for the patio or a trip to the park.
6. Teach them how to ride a bike, throw a ball and play football, dancing.
Each one of these activities has some benefit like hand-eye coordination, building muscle, keeping flexible and learning what their bodies are capable of. It is also great for fine and gross motor skills that help them throughout their school and work life as well as burning off any excess energy.
How play helps the child’s development
1. Cause and effect
Playing helps a child realize that every action has a reaction. If they put a brick on this way their tower will collapse but if they put it on another way their tower will grow, be stronger and higher If they fill the bucket up too much with water it will overflow and wet everything.
2. Problem Solving
They learn how to solve various problems by playing with their friends and or toys. This is a valuable learning curb that they need to succeed in any area of life. Strong problem-solving abilities give them strength and confidence that they can get through anything. There are a lot of really great games, toys and various activities that help with problem-solving. There are also a lot of really good board games for that encourage the child to think and solve a problem.
3. Social Skills
Playing helps a child learn how to interact and play with other children, it teaches about human behaviour and what kind of people are more compatible with them. As they grow their social skills will develop especially if the parents encourage the child to get involved in various group outings and social activities.
4. Emotional Control
Playing helps a child gain self-control, once again there are some funny yet brilliant board games out there that help with this One, in particular, is “Don’t lose your cool”. The player who’s turn it is has to wear a hat that measures their frustration, anger, and various heightened emotions. The other players have to tickle, tease, tempt and try to make the player wearing the hat lose their cool. There are rules to stop bullying and anything over the top, so the game is just good clean fun that leaves the children and adults alike in fits of laughter but what the game is actually doing is teaching the child self-control, to overcome adversity and ignore stupidity in forms of teasing meant to harm. Children that have great self-control tend to get through their school life with ease and actually enjoy it
5. Building Relationships
Various play activities help the child develops friendships. Through various mixed activities with other children, they learn to make social contact and join in with the other children.
6. Creative Thinking
Various games help the child think quickly on their feet, It enables them to find creative ways of doing things and accomplishing their goals
7. Leads to better physical and mental health
Play helps to get a child in good physical shape and helps with muscle development for later in life. Playing can also give a child to act out their emotional problems for a healthy state of mind.
8. Develops the imagination
Play most certainly opens and develop a child’s imagination. Through role play and even solo play, most children make up a whole fantasy world around them. Even if they are playing dolls or cars if you take the time to watch and listen you will realize what really good storytellers some of these children are.
9. Creates and nurture their natural curiosity
Learning through play is a great opportunity for parents to nurture their child’s natural curiosity and make them want to go to school and learn.
You do not need fancy props or tools to get their imagination going, a simple walk through the woods or park can start the imagination going. Collecting various shapes of leaves, flowers, rocks, shell or weird looking Sticks which you could join together to make stick women or men. Buy them some clay and then help to create some beautiful pottery pieces. Let them draw in a sketchbook experiment with colours, shapes, and characters. Give them topics and or themes for them to follow. Write stories with them and then go on have some fun on imaginary adventures with your child.
Learning Through Play
Learning through play is getting harder for children as there are many challenges in today’s world. Parents are getting more and more increasingly busy and putting pressure on children to perform academically.
There are many ways you can help and encourage your child to participate in through play. The secret is to remember not to push them too hard and always be more encouraging rather than criticizing as you want to build a strong healthy well-adjusted child not break them down.
Another thing parents must remember is that every child is different. Any development stages are just guidelines. Your child may be a lot faster at mental development than body development and some kids may have huge growth spurts that can be quite a confidence destroyer especially if you are being teased at school.
The trick is not to be too pushy or come down too hard on the child. Gently encourage them to try again but leave it if they really do not want to do it. You do not want to spark the seed of rebellion, the anxiety of fear.
All children should be encouraged to learn through play. Whilst learning and keeping ahead of their work is good practice so too is having time to relax and play. Not only is it their right to be able to relax, learn and grow.
Encourage your child to play and participate in group activities and remember to always be there to support them. Practice with them at home this will not only improve their sports game but encourage to try sportier opportunities. It will also strengthen and or repair any bond with parent and child. Keep your child encouraged and motivated no matter what the sporting event outcome all kids are different and should be left to develop in their own way and time. Buying educational toys that are way above their age group will not speed their development along. It may, in fact, deter it and knock the child’s confidence.