Run, jump, play! When it comes to school, these are terms that typically don’t apply to the classroom – that is – unless it’s gym or recess time.
Even so, the time children are allowed for recess or free play at school seems shorter these days than in years past. Thanks to the pandemic, many schools are also in half-day sessions making kids’ recess, gym or playtime non-existent in many school districts.
Any parent will tell you that kids need to move their bodies. It’s good for their overall health, helps them to maintain a steady attitude and it’s great for their sleep cycle.
But what many parents may not realize is that playtime works in tangent with learning. Research has found that it’s crucial for younger students at the pre-K and kindergarten levels to learn through play.
Here are some of the ways that younger children can learn through play.
Play Encourages Life Skills
Skills that our children need to develop into good humans begins at a young age. Play encourages these life skills. Through the act of play, children begin to develop situational awareness about the world around them, how to navigate situations with positive reinforcement all while building up their language skills.
Play Builds Self-Esteem
Through the simple act of play, younger children start to try new things in preschool and kindergarten when they begin to socialize with peers. For example, a child who builds a block tower only for it to tumble can be reassured by adults to try again while learning that sometimes failures do happen. Or maybe losing a casual game of tag on the playground might make a child upset if they don’t have help navigating this loss. Sometimes, learning how to fail is the best way to build self-esteem.
Play Develops Gross and Fine Motor Skills
Children develop their gross motor skills – which include sitting, standing, walking, running, and jumping – while they are playing. Gross motor skills involve the body’s bigger muscles, while fine motor skills involve the smaller muscles of the hands, fingers, and wrists. Some fine motor skill examples include playing with Legos or using scissors during an arts and crafts project. Although children are unaware that they are developing essential skills while they are playing, fine and gross motor skills are essential.
Play Stimulates a Child’s Drive for Curiosity, Exploration and Discovery
Memories from your own childhood might include made up games in the yard or at nearby park or playground. As you think back about your own time playing with siblings or friends, you were unknowingly fostering your drive to problem solve, analyze, and evaluate problems later in life as an adult. The simple act of play can motivate children to gain mastery over their environment, promoting focus, higher-level thinking and concentration.
Play Promotes Interpersonal Skills
As children make up games while playing, they often get creative by making up their own rules, which other children may negotiate. So, parents, before you intervene when your children are fighting about rules of a Wiffle ball game, let them be! Experts explain that interpersonal skills like listening, negotiating, and compromising are practiced through games and play, even though this sometimes is challenging for some children. Play provides everyday practice of these skills whereby children gain real time experiences.
Parents and educators play a key role in the lives of young children. At home or through specialized preschool or kindergarten programs, adults can foster learning through play. So, parents the next time your young child is outside with friends or enrolled in a play-based program, remember that not only are they moving their body for essential exercise, but their brains are activated and they’re learning essential tools needed as they grow into adulthood.