Tips and hints

The benefits of play-based learning

Welcome to Kids on Rennie’s first post! While our centre is being built, we thought it would be a good time to start sharing information with families – including expert advice, ideas, hints and tips about all things to do with children!

For our first post, we look at the benefits of play-based learning and why it’s so important for children, particularly those in childcare.

What is play-based learning?

Play-based learning is about using play as a context for learning. It’s about children exploring, experimenting, and discovering with people and objects (such as toys), whilst learning at the same time. Learning through play is less about the outcome, and more about creativity, spontaneous activity, and child-directed learning.

Painting is a fantastic way to generate creativity

Learning through play is different to a teacher-centred approach, which is an instructional, teacher-led style learning which focuses on achieving a particular outcome (“today, we’re going to learn our times table!”). In a teacher-centred approach, the teacher instructs the child on the skills they want the child to learn – rather than this happening organically.

There are benefits to both types of learning, depending on the context, but research suggests that play-based learning, particularly for young children, can have huge benefits. The Australian Early Learning Years Framework focuses on play-based learning and embeds it into the curriculum and outcomes – and for good reason.

What are its benefits?

There is lots of research about the benefits of play-based learning. It’s been found to help develop language, social and emotional skills, as well as encourage creativity and imagination. It also fosters a positive attitude towards learning. Children start to see learning as a natural part of their day-to-day experiences, rather than it being forced upon them in a way which removes themselves from the very thing they want to do – play!

The best way to describe the benefits of learning through play is by example. Imagine letting your four-year-old child paint. Painting not only assists with eye-hand coordination and motor skills, but also helps with developing:

  • language skills (“I’m painting a rainbow” or “I want to paint with red now”);
  • an understanding of colours, including the primary and secondary colours;
  • expressing creativity, imagination, and even emotions;
  • exploring textures and shapes; and
  • feeling a sense of achievement (particularly with making a fine mess!).

Learning through play also helps to avoid some of the negative effects that may be felt in teacher-centred learning. This includes possible stress, lack of motivation, and anxiety, as well as a sense of negativity towards the concept of learning.

Role-playing and cars are a perfect combination

Some ideas for learning through play

The beauty of play-based learning is that it’s happening all the time with our little ones. They’re already doing it! But some ideas for learning through play are:

  • playing dress-ups in clothes and accessories – and let them dress up their teddies too!;
  • being creativity with cardboard boxes, old toilet rolls and paper plates;
  • playing with dolls and teddies;
  • building blocks and towers (this is a great way to teach maths without them even knowing it!);
  • filling up old buckets with different natural materials such as sand, stones, and pebbles. Let them experiment with what happens when water is added or the elements bang together;
  • digging outdoors, watering plants and planting seeds;
  • making an obstacle course, secret tunnels, castles, and fortresses.

Until next time, we hope your children enjoy their play!

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