Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They possess a desire to explore and engage with it by playing. Play-based learning is a method of teaching where the teachers capitalize on the children’s interests by providing specific encouragement and feedback during play activities. This way, the children are both proactive and engaged in their learning, gaining first-hand information about the world through expert guidance. It is an important element in various innovative educational approaches such as the Reggio Emilia approach, a student-centered and constructivist educational philosophy that cultivates the child’s potential for growth through their innate curiosity.
The most efficient way to develop a child’s language skills is with frequent interactions. While the child is playing, educators help to grow their vocabulary by asking questions, encouraging conversations and introducing unfamiliar words. This discussion-based approach lets children increase their mastery of a language in a natural way that is dynamic and compelling. Encouraging children to use rhyming and singing while they play also helps them with their memorization and pre-literacy skills. Studies have found that children in play-based learning programs have better vocabulary and storytelling capabilities compared to their peers in traditional classrooms.
There is a widespread misconception among parents that creativity is frivolous when, in fact, it is the most essential component to problem solving and innovation, skills especially needed in today’s knowledge-based economy. Playing is the most natural way for children to foster and expand their creativity and imagination. Through the use of toys, paints or blocks, teachers give children the freedom to let their curiosity and imagination run free. Studies indicate that this aspect of play creates a brain that has increased flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life.
Social and Emotional Skills
Frequent social interactions with teachers and peers are an important feature in play-based learning. By having discussions, play-acting or playing games, teachers guide children in developing social skills such as cooperation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating and resolving conflicts. Children learn the value of empathy and the importance of learning the feelings, perspectives and motivations of their peers early on.
Additionally, the active role children play in guiding their own learning helps them to develop positive self-esteem and confidence. This makes them more willing to take risks, explore and, most importantly, be motivated to learn.
Many international schools understand the power of play-based learning and thus utilize them in their curriculum for young children. For a list of schools that help cultivate the creativity, social, language and emotional skills in your child, check out our international schools page.