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Did you know that the brain finishes its growth and development in one’s mid to late 20s? The beginning of brain development, on the other hand, starts in the womb before a child is even born. Once a child is born, his brain develops rapidly as he absorbs the knowledge of the world around him. A child’s brain will learn certain patterns based on what kind of activities the child is exposed to. For that reason, play-based learning activities can be very important when it comes to the development of a healthy brain.
But why is play-based learning so crucial for a child’s early education? How might a child develop without this kind of learning? Keep reading and learn more about the play-based learning theory below.Play-based learning activities are important for children's development. Find out why! Click To Tweet
What Is Play-Based Learning?
Many people think that children can only learn through traditional studying. If a child is not sitting at a desk with a pencil, a notebook, and a book, he must not be learning. But this is not the case at all, especially for very young children.
While formal study sessions can be beneficial, they are not the only way a child can learn and develop their brains. Play-based learning activities, especially when supplemented early on in a child’s life, can make a big difference in how that child develops later in life. But what is play-based learning exactly, and what makes it so unique?
This learning is unique because children who engage in play-based learning don’t have to worry about grades. They don’t have to worry about whether they did something poorly according to a grade. Or, have the joy of an activity crushed by getting a bad score on it.
They also won’t feel the pressure to consistently do well on a particular activity because they once got a good score. Children engaging in play-based learning also won’t need to compete with other children to get a higher score. Many children have to worry about all of these things later on in life, and to have to worry so much at such an early age is not good for a child’s brain development.
Instead of focusing on grades, play-based learning is what the name suggests: the child learns as he plays. You might wonder how a child can learn anything while playing. Isn’t play a completely non-intellectual activity? As it turns out, play can be very intellectually stimulating for children.
How Does Play-Based Learning Work?
Without play-based learning activities, the average child goes through life often being told that he should not be playing. For example, since children spend so much time in school studying, most of their childhood will be devoted to formal study with little time to play. If a child is caught playing in school, they might be scolded or even punished.
The problem with this is that children have an innate need to play. If this need is not met early in life and throughout one’s childhood, the child may not develop certain cognitive skills as well as other children who have learned the art of playing. The thing about playing is that it is not mindless behavior, even though it might not look all that mentally stimulating.
As a child plays, he can interact with the world in different ways. More than that, he can figure out some of the rights and wrongs of various activities. For example, when a child plays in a puddle, he might discover that a leaf will float on the water while a stone will sink.
While this example might be obvious to an adult, these simple discoveries can be revolutionary to a young child. They can show that different objects are made out of different materials and have different weights and densities. A child can discover things about the world through play-based learning theory that he might not otherwise find without playing.
A child will also have the chance to put certain things to the test. For example, if a parent or teacher tells the child a fact about the world, the child has the chance to see if that fact is true or not.
Play Based Learning Activities Can Help Communication Skills
Keep in mind that play-based learning at home or preschool is never isolated. While a child might have times when he will have to play by himself, there will usually be opportunities where he can play with other children or adults, such as his parents or teachers. The ability to play with others is essential for young children.
If a child doesn’t learn how to interact with others at an early age, he might have underdeveloped social skills as he gets older. For example, he might become shy early on in life. He might become afraid of talking to other children, joining groups, and playing with others.
If these underdeveloped social skills continue into the child’s adulthood, he might have difficulty getting a job, going to college, talking with his peers, making new friends, etc. Without good social skills, a child can quickly feel like an outcast with no feasible way to join in on the fun.
Fortunately, if you introduce play-based learning activities to your child early on, he should develop strong social skills and never have to face these problems. Play-based learning allows a child to interact with other children and adults in various ways. For example, if a child is playing with some wooden blocks, the parent or teacher would be able to challenge the child to perform a particular task, such as stacking the blocks into a tower.
While this may seem simple, it will teach the child how to respond to a request. The child will also learn how to follow through with the request and then receive a reaction to that request from the adult. The results are similar when the child has the chance to play with other children.
Play-Based Learning Can Help Motor Skills
Children are not famous for being incredibly dexterous. Instead, they are famous for being pretty clumsy. They might make a huge mess when trying to pour themselves a bowl of cereal.
Or, they might end up with applesauce all over their faces when they were simply trying to lead the spoon into their own mouth. The clumsiness of children is entirely normal. It exists because a child’s brain is not yet developed enough to have fine motor control skills.
Only as a child ages and certain parts of the child’s brain have time to develop that the child will become more dexterous. He will have less of a chance of spilling milk as he pours it into his bowl. Play-based learning gives children the opportunity to develop and fine-tune their motor skills at an early age.
A child who can physically play with blocks, puzzles, toys, and other children will develop fine motor skills much faster than a child who does not do these things or does not do them very often. A parent or teacher can also speed along with the pace at which a child masters his motor skills. For example, a teacher might teach a child how to build a tall tower out of blocks.
Ordinarily, the child would not have the motor skills to build such a high tower. Instead, the child would be more likely to knock it down accidentally. But with the help of a teacher, the child will eventually learn how to be more steady, and he will soon be able to build a tall tower to match the teachers.
The same goes for other physical toys such as puzzles, toy cars, etc. As long as a child can play, he will learn.
Play Based Learning and Emotional Development
We have already seen how play based learning at childcare and preschool can help a child develop critical social skills. However, learning how to interact with others is only the first part of a child’s social lexicon as he engages in play based learning activities. Being social first involves learning to understand what people are saying, how to respond, etc.
But at some point, a child will also have to learn about emotional development. After enough time interacting with others, a child will be able to see how other people experience emotions. This is important because young children might not yet understand that other people have feelings and that others can feel the same way as they do.
This is why young children often have trouble sharing. A child may think, “I will be upset if I don’t have this toy.” But the same child will not think about how the other child will feel the same if she does not have the same toy to play with.
This is one of the reasons why play-based learning is so important. When a child plays with another child, he will see that the other child will be upset if she does not have a toy to play with. The child will then be able to see that other people can feel emotions and that they can be sad, happy, angry, and so on.
By understanding the emotions of others through play, the child can react to those emotions. For example, the child may learn to be compassionate and learn how to share a toy so both he and the other child can be content. Adults can also teach children about emotions in a similar fashion.
Can Boost a Child’s Creativity and Imagination
Children often lose their sense of curiosity and wonder along with their creativity and imagination through traditional schooling. Traditional schooling does not give children enough space for their imagination to blossom. On the other hand, play-based learning for young children can give them a strong foundation of creativity and imagination.
Creativity and imagination are very important in adulthood because they can create adults who still have a sense of wonder and joy. It will also promote “thinking outside of the box.” You can see examples of creativity and imagination in motion when a child is playing.
For example, a child may pretend to be a doctor for his stuffed animal. He will have the chance to imagine that his toy is unwell, and he will place himself in a position that allows him to make his toy feel better. Or, a child may draw on a cardboard box and pretend it is a racecar or a rocket ship.
Whatever the case, play based learning activities can help a child’s imagination grow. Through this growth, the child might even develop artistic skills such as drawing, singing, dancing, and so on. Without developing creativity and imagination, the child might not have the chance to come up with his own unique ideas later in life.
Everything You Need to Know About Play-Based Learning
Play-based learning is vital for developing the different aspects of a child’s mind. Without play-based learning activities, a child might have underdeveloped social motor, emotional, and creative skills. Without these skills, the child might have difficulty finding his place in the world as he grows older.
Are you a fan of the play-based learning approach?
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.