Some parents wonder, “What is my child learning if he is just playing all day?” The answer is, “So much!” Play is important because that is how children learn, through hands on interactions. Children work on all areas of development while they are deep in play: cognitive, physical, language, emotional, and social development.
Benefits of Children Learning Through Play
As children have the ability to explore their surroundings and manipulate materials they are given the opportunity to pose inquiries. This leads to making hypothesis and more exploration. Their curiosity allows them to make new discoveries!
This is a life long skill that begins with play! Problems often occur accidentally during play, such as a ball not fitting through a hole or a block tower continuing to fall over. An adult can ask open ended questions to help a child stop and think what they can do to fix their problem. Children will show patience and perseverance as they try to build a steady base for their block tower. Other children may understandably show frustration; use the opportunity to discuss emotions.
Cause and Effect
A child begins exploring toys through trial and error. “Hmm this toy sings to me when I press the blue button,” a child may think. Cause and effect allows children to learn an object’s purpose and later be intentional with their actions.
Support and Grow Imagination
Pretend play is a great way for a child to transfer what they’ve seen role modeled in every day life into their play. This shows cognitive development in action! Children can also practice their understanding of different objects through pretend play. For example if there is a spoon in the play kitchen, how do they use it? The caregiver can model the correct way to use the spoon with a bowl and pretend food. This is just another example of learning through play and why play is important for a child’s development.
Everything a child learns leads up to them being self-sufficient adults, such as putting on and zipping up their own coat. Many tasks are learned through play: using pretend money while ‘grocery shopping’ or even pre-writing skills when coloring. As a child plays, they also build confidence through making decisions. Everything we do requires a process and next steps, such a child looking at a book needs to know to turn the page to see more. When playing, children have to think, “What comes next?”
As children get older, they’ll learn how to successfully play with peers. This is called cooperative play. They’ll learn how to share, solve social conflicts, and work together to complete a goal. When observing children play you may see a true leader emerge as he or she makes a plan and delegates tasks. Team work, taking turns, and problem solving are skills that will benefit a person for years to come.
Play Is Important, So Make Learning Fun!
Children are more likely to show interest and take away knowledge from an activity if it is related to their passions. As a parent or childcare provider, it is your job to offer activities that follow their emerging interests, such as trucks this week and maybe cats next week.
It is important to remember that emergent activities don’t only include a child’s current interest, but also a developmental skill they are working towards. At every age level a child is working on a new skill to reach a new developmental milestone. You can prepare a fun activity working on the skill they’re trying to master along with a current interest or passion. Here is an example for a child who is working on identifying colors and shows an interest in trucks. Crumple up different colored pieces of paper; scatter them on the floor, and provide a garbage truck. Can the child state the color ‘trash’ they pick up or can they find the color you announce? Add math into their play by counting the pieces of trash or concluding their are 2 blue pieces and 2 green pieces, which equals 4 total!
Do you want to learn more about how you can instill a sense of wonder in children and encourage development through play? Try our newest online class: Encouraging Curiosity & Learning Through Play. Remember all nannies who work with Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny are gifted three free online classes to expand their professional development!
About The Author
Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and works for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny as the eLearning Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her son, going for walks with her husband and dog, and discovering local wineries in New England.