6 brilliant ways to incorporate learning into playtime.
It’s no secret that children love to play. They’re good at it, too — give them an empty cardboard box or a simple toy and watch as they entertain themselves for hours on end.
Their growing, creative minds can get more than amusement from play, though. Children who play boost their imagination, and they learn how to solve problems organically. Naturally inquisitive, play can inspire even more curiosity and exploration in little ones. When they use their imaginations, kids expand their creativity, too.
With all of this in mind, it makes sense why grown-ups try so hard to make play-based learning part of children’s educational experience. When lessons are taught through play, kids tend to understand them more. Play comes naturally to them, so it makes sense that they’d have an easier time learning math, science, and reading when it is made into a fun game or activity. Plus, they reap a slew of benefits, including boosted social skills, creativity, and improved communication.
As a parent, you can make play-based learning part of your home environment and open your kids up to the same benefits. Here’s how to do it:
Choose the right toys
Even a traditional toy can teach something to the child who plays with it. For example:
- Balls: When little kids throw, kick or catch a ball, they improve their hand-eye coordination. Plus, if they perform any of these activities with a friend, they will be socializing and learning to share, too.
- Costumes: Dress-up stokes a child’s imagination, and imaginative play helps kids to be more creative. Playing pretend can hone a child’s language skills as well as their emotions — they take on a new role and embody it fully. Kids can play pretend with physical toys, such as action figures, dolls, play kitchens, cars and more.
- Blocks: Much like playing with balls, building with blocks improves a child’s fine motor skills. You can also encourage your kiddo to count, name colors and create patterns with multi-hued blocks.
Of course, these are just a handful of the many examples of toys that stoke play-based learning. Choose the ones that you think your child will enjoy, then watch them educate and entertain themselves.
Your family trips to the playground serve more than just an energy-expending purpose. Many toys — balls and blocks included — hone a child’s fine motor skills. But they also need to improve their gross motor skills, which involve control over the body’s larger muscles. So, head to a playground, where you can find slides, rope ladders, tunnels, ride-on toys and more. All of these features help to improve a child’s coordination, balance and physical fitness, some of the key benefits of play-based learning.
If you’ve joined your child for a playtime session, don’t sit there quietly. Instead, ask them questions to get them talking while they play. For example, let’s say your son or daughter has a race car that they’re pushing around the room. Ask them where the car’s going and see what they say. Then, ask why the car’s driving to that particular place. For one thing, this conversation opens up your child’s imagination and encourages verbal skills. Perhaps more importantly, though, it shows you’re paying attention and playing along, which will make your child feel good.
Sensory activities suit a child’s inquisitive mind. They give little ones a chance to feel and explore a particular material. Some books incorporate sensory elements — you’ve probably seen a children’s book with textured pages or sounds. Take this one step further with at-home sensory experiences.
Water’s the obvious place to start. You can fill a sensory table with water and let your child explore concepts such as volume as they push into and play with water. Splashing into H2O also teaches consequences — if you don’t want to get wet, then be gentle. In a more traditional sense, water tables can also teach hand-eye coordination and improve strength. And, when you’re done with water, you can fill the table with sand, soil, snow… really any material that’s safe for your child to explore.
Coloring and painting are more than just a creative outlet. When your child mixes paints together, they learn how to make different colors. Holding a paintbrush to create art helps them develop the right hold for writing in the future. They’ll hone the art of self-expression. Finally, when it’s all over, your child can learn how to clean up after themselves. Even if you have to follow behind them to wipe up everything properly, it’s a valuable lesson.
Sing and dance
Rainy days can leave parents a bit perplexed — if we can’t go outside and expend energy, what will we do? We suggest turning up the music and dancing and singing along. You can make a game of it by, say, grabbing a flashlight, making it the spotlight and pointing at whose turn it is to dance. Or, you can just play a classic round of freeze dance or karaoke.
Either way, singing and dancing help kids to hone their literacy and language skills as they sing along. They improve listening abilities as they follow, too. And dancing boosts coordination and strength. Plus, it burns a bit of energy on days when you can’t head outdoors. So, it might be a lifesaver, too.
Play the best way
Your kids love to play, and you want them to learn. All of you can achieve your goals through play-based learning. Better yet, you’ll all have fun trying new ways to entertain yourselves and hone developmental skills. So, get started today and see what at-home activities your kiddos like best — it’s time to learn through play.