There are many different approaches to children’s learning and development that have been executed over the years. One approach that has been a hot topic in the Early Childhood Sector is play-based learning. Research suggests that play-based learning enhances children’s developmental and academic learning outcomes by teaching them the relevant skills to use throughout their lives.
What is Play Based Learning?
A play-based curriculum uses play as a context for learning. Through play children can explore, experiment, solve problems and discover in a range of imaginative ways.
Play-based curriculums involve child-initiated play with the element of educator-supported learning. It is an Educators role to encourage children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that see deeper thinking, new discoveries and a thirst for wanting to know more.
Why is Play Important to Children’s Development?
Through play, children further develop their imagination, language skills, concentration, self-confidence, social skills, problem solving skills and so much more.
Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the Highest form of research” and if you take a look at all the learning that occur in one play experience, you truly understand the meaning of this statement.
An example of this could be a group of children sitting on the floor all building with lego. During this play activity children are problem solving as they make their creation, socialising as they chat to their friends, using mathematics as they count their blocks in their building and so much more. An Educator sits with the group and asks each child what they are building, how they came up with the idea and what else they might need to finish their creation. This level of interaction extends on the experience and motivates them to continue learning through play.
Free Play Vs Structured Play
Children’s play experiences can take on two different forms, they are either structured or Free (unstructed) Play experiences. Both forms of play are vital for a child’s wellbeing, learning and development.
Free play is open-ended, allowing children to guide their own experience and therefore be in control of their own learning and development. Structured play any type of activity that has a set of rules with a goal, seeing children using problem solving to get to end result.
Examples of Free Play Are:
- Playing with blocks
- Colouring, drawing or painting in blank paper
- Playing or running around in a playground
Examples of Structured Play Are:
- Board Games
- Card Games
- Team or organised sports such as football, basketball, tag
- Following instructions to build a model car
Both forms of play are just as important at the other.
Free Play encourages play by using their imagination and creativity skills to create their own rules and explore endless possibilities. Children are able to enjoy a sense of freedom and control, allowing them to make mistakes in a flexible environment and choose their own path for the experience.
Structured play they are using their learning to recognise patterns and follow rules to get to a pre-established goal in the most efficient and effective way. This kind of play builds resilience and confidence in a child as they learn to cooperate within a team to achieve the desired outcome.
It is important that children get a balance of both free and structured play in their day. Closely observing children will help to establish which form of play is their preference, Educators will then use these observations to plan experiences for children. If at all children are not fully immersed in their play experiences, then Educators will change the course or type of experience to motivate them to stay engaged. Sometimes just changing their free play experience to have an end goal to achieve will reignite their curiosity.