Play supports learning
Play is sometimes seen as frivolous and lacking purpose, while learning is associated with seriousness and hard work. Thus that play supports learning seems incongrous. In reality when people play, they enjoy themselves and are engaged, relaxed, and challenged – states of mind highly conducive to learning. Through play, children try out ideas, explore, experiment and take risks. As the children play, they exploring the unknown, cultivate their imaginations and learn to deal with uncertainty. Joyfully playing with others, they develop empathy.
Playful learning in schools
Schools are places where young people learn to become contributing members of their communities. Playful learning in school requires play with a purpose. When students understand the purpose of school tasks and see that these tasks are meaningful and also allows themselves to have fun, they would be far more willing to engage in the learning process.
Paradoxes between play and school
Paradoxes between play and school add complexity to teaching and learning. While fostering playful learning in schools, several paradoxes between the nature of play and the nature of school will arise:
Successful navigation of the paradoxes between play and school would enable the school to harness the power of play-based learning successfully and bring about a sea change in the learning environment in early childhood education and thereby the learning outcome.
In early childhood, children learn best through play-based, hands-on experiences. They make sense of ideas from real-life experience (versus ‘telling’) and are motivated to learn when something is interesting and exciting. Children appear to gain lasting academic and social benefits if they are able to learn through play as it enables exploration, trial and error, own-pace learning etc. rather than receiving impersonal, direct instruction focused specifically on academics, which may discourage individual initiative. Learning through play with interesting materials and peers in the presence of caring teachers appears to foster confidence, independence and concentration skills in children.
To paraphrase Mark Twain’s quote on “job”, when it comes to children it can be said “Allow children to learn while playing and they need not sweat about learning in their life.” Play is considered children’s “work” and is the vehicle through which children acquire knowledge and skills, allowing children to engage independently and with others. The role of teachers and other adults in the room/environment is to enable and scaffold playful experiences and learning that pique their natural curiosity, kickstarts their exploration mindset, provides for spontaneous interactions and ideas, allows them to learn from trial and error etc.. Providing children with active and playful hands-on experiences especially in a group setting with other eager and motivated children helps foster and enrich learning.
A strong foundation
Meaningful play sets the foundation for learning along with the development of critical social and emotional knowledge and skills and thereby lays a strong foundation for children.
When children play, they…
The key characteristics of playful experiences of our games are...
When children play they become deeply involved, often combining physical, mental and verbal engagement.