How can you encourage play-based learning at home?
Do you feel like kids these days don’t get to play and use their creativity as much as when you were a kid? Does it seem like all your kids do at school is memorize material and take quizzes, just to forget it when they come home? This is a common observation by many parents who see that their child is lacking playful interactions with other kids at school and at home.
Play is an essential part of a child’s development. It fosters creativity, imagination, problem-solving skills, social interaction, and cognitive growth. Play-based learning, which combines play and education, is a powerful approach to helping children learn and thrive. And the best part is, you can easily incorporate play-based learning into your child’s routine at home!
Here is a quote by a third-grade teacher, Crystal O’Brian, about how she incorporates play-based learning into her classroom:
“They are able to choose whatever materials they want to play with in the room, but I encourage them to think about what we’ve been doing in our science block when they’re playing,” O’Brien said. “And sometimes they’ll just naturally do that. They’ll tell me, ‘Look, this is an example of gravity. This is an unbalanced force. This is a chain reaction.’”
The article she was featured in shares more thoughts from other teachers about how important it is to bring play-based learning back into schools. With the rise of technology, children spend less time in natural learning environments. These environments allow kids to play and use their imagination. In school settings, play-based learning provides great opportunities for students to make friends and connections with others.
Here are five fun and effective ways to encourage play-based learning at home for your own children even when they’re not at school:
Create a playful learning environment
Set up a designated play area in your home that is inviting and stimulating. Fill it with age-appropriate toys, games, puzzles, and books that encourage exploration and discovery. Consider rotating the toys periodically to keep the play area fresh and interesting. You can also incorporate elements of nature, such as plants or sensory materials like sand or water, to add variety and sensory experiences. Check out this link to see why sensory activities are so important for kids. Make sure the play area is safe and conducive to open-ended play, where children can freely explore and use their imagination.
Incorporate play into everyday activities
Turn everyday activities into playful learning opportunities. For example, during meal prep, involve your child in counting, measuring, and mixing ingredients. While doing laundry, encourage your child to sort clothes by color, size, or type. When cleaning up, play a “treasure hunt” game where your child finds and matches objects to their designated spots. These simple activities can help your child develop early math, science, and organizational skills while having fun. Here are more ideas for ways to make regular activities and chores into games for kids.
Play with your child
Play is more meaningful when parents and caregivers join in. Spend quality time with your child by playing together. Join them in building blocks, playing dress-up, or engaging in pretend play. Follow your child’s lead and let them take the lead in their play. This not only strengthens the parent-child bond but also provides opportunities for language development, problem-solving, and social skills building. Playing together also allows you to observe your child’s interests and abilities, which can guide you in providing age-appropriate play-based learning activities. There are even benefits for you when you play with your child!
Use open-ended toys
Open-ended toys are toys that do not have a specific purpose or outcome, allowing children to use their imagination and creativity to play. Examples of open-ended toys include building blocks, art supplies, dolls, cars, and play dough. These toys promote open-ended play, where children can create their own narratives, experiment, and problem-solve. Unlike toys with predetermined functions, open-ended toys offer limitless possibilities for play-based learning and encourage children to think critically and independently.
Incorporate technology mindfully
Technology can also be used as a tool for play-based learning, but it’s important to use it mindfully and in moderation. Choose age-appropriate educational apps, games, and websites that promote creativity, problem-solving, and learning. Engage with your child while they are using technology, ask questions, and encourage them to explain what they are doing or learning. Set screen time limits and ensure that technology does not replace other forms of play or social interaction.
These are just a few ways that you can incorporate play-based learning into their daily life. Play-based learning can be easily integrated into your child’s routine at home by creating a playful learning environment, incorporating play into everyday activities, playing with your child, using open-ended toys, and incorporating technology mindfully. Play-based learning not only promotes cognitive development but also nurtures creativity, imagination, social skills, and problem-solving abilities. So, let your child play, learn, and thrive in a fun and engaging way at home!