The market offers a broad choice of childcare providers and preschools with different approaches to early childhood education. In most cases, the objective is to prepare children for Kindergarten and life beyond, although the ways to achieve the goal may vary between schools.
For many years, play-based education has gained momentum in the educational community and from experts in early childhood education. It only takes a quick online search to notice the abundance of content about play-based learning to realize that it is an area of varying opinions and continuous research.
To simplify the discussion, the concept of play-based learning can be summarized as learning while at play.
Why Play-based Learning?
Children are naturally inclined to play. Using this natural disposition in a learning context, a play-based activity is a developmental opportunity that fosters children’s excitement and motivation to:
Play-based learning is a hands-on learning approach, in which children are encouraged to go through trial and errors to solve problems.
Dr Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, says that “playful learning engages and motivates children in ways that support better developmental outcomes and strategies for life-long learning. If we hope to groom intelligent, socially skilled, creative thinkers for the global workplace of tomorrow, we must return play to its rightful position in children’s lives today.”
The Benefits of Play-based Learning
Children are stimulated through play. They become active learners that are exposed to challenging problems that they have to solve through exploration.
It is important to note that a good balance between child-initiated free play and teacher-guided play with intentional thematic teaching is essential to enable and maximize benefits such as:
Play-based learning supports positivity in the acquisition process and builds upon the natural curiosity of children about the nature of things and their environment. It boosts children’s enthusiasm and rewards persistence, imagination, and creativity to overcome problems. Ultimately, this impacts children’s self-esteem.
Play-based Learning vs Directed Instruction
Compared to directed instruction, failures are not a source of stress leading to demotivation. Failures are an opportunity for more experimentation. Failures have no negative impact on self-esteem which would have disastrous long-term consequences on a child’s life.
It does not mean that directed instruction has no place in education. It means that young children have more involvement and input into their knowledge and skill acquisition in a system where play is the vehicle for learning. NAEYC(The National Association for the Education of Young Children) offers interesting examples to connect play to learning.
Play-based activities offer a great framework for teachers to introduce STEMor STEAM while at play. STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematic. STEM or STEAM activities are perfectly complementary to a play-based learning.
Are You Interested to Learn More about Play-based Education?
If you are interested to learn more about play-based learning and how we implement it at Willowdale Children’s Academy, do not hesitate to contact us.