Learning Through Play

Posted October 25, 2017 – AWE Learning Staff

Look at a group of children interacting with one another. Are they laughing? Playing tag? Playing a board game? Coloring? We often identify these types of interactions as engaging in play. Play, recreation, amusement, or fun, is not about doing. It’s about being. When early learners engage in play, they explore spatial relationships, hone motor capabilities, practice social skills and language, think creatively, and gather information about the world through their senses.

Many experts have identified various categories of play:

  • Active play: running, jumping, skipping, and other use of large muscles
  • Quiet play: reading, coloring, etc.
  • Cooperative or social play: games and activities that involve more than one individual
  • Solitary play: drawing, coloring, or any independent activity
  • Manipulative play: puzzle building, cutting and pasting, or any activity that involves hand-eye coordination or fine motor skills
  • Creative play: painting, molding, building, making music, or any activity that involves a child’s imagination
  • Dramatic play: dress up, make-believe, or any activity that involves pretending

With the growing presence of technology in our society, like adults, children learn to use digital resources through epistemic play, or play where they explore functions of the device and learn how the device works. These behaviors include exploration, problem solving, and skill acquisition. While learning to use digital resources, children learn the functions of different buttons by pressing or clicking on these features. The software and content now available on technology, opens up opportunities for children to engage both in solitary and in cooperative play, while simultaneously often tapping into creative, quiet, and manipulative play.

Adults help to structure the environment and opportunities in which children get to engage in play. For early learners to benefit from play, the following formula has been created:

Safe & Educational Play Space + Purposeful Planning + Intentional Interactions = Learning Through Play!

Some tips to remember when providing play and learning opportunities:

  • Children need a large enough area for moving when playing with others.
  • Provide supplies that allow for creativity – encourage learners to think, plan, and execute ideas.
  • Allow children to be creative.
  • Engage through active learning. Early learning professional should coach play, but it is important for them not to give a lot of direct instruction or to provide too many rules.

Pretend play helps children to build skills in many essential developmental areas: social and emotional skills, language skills, and thinking skills. When engaging in pretend play, he or she is actively experimenting with social and emotional roles of life. When participating in cooperative play, children have to take turns, and have the chance to take on roles and see the world from someone else’s point of view. Pretend play helps children to understand the power of language, and make the connection between spoken and written language. Whether it is deciding what role each person will play, or where your pretend scene might be taking place, children often have to problem solve when engaging in collaborative and pretend play.

Engaging in play helps children to build skills and characteristics that help them interact with others as a young child, and when they grow up. It is important to remember to provide safe environments for children to play, and to offer guidance.

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