Over the years we have seen teaching styles change. In my Mother’s era, children did things over and over until they were perfect. There was no sport, there was no play, it was all work.
In my time, I can remember doing countless hours of copy books, learning how to do letters correctly and lots of reading.
Those things are still important but in the last few years, we have seen a huge change in schools where they are taking out the play based learning in favor of more academic learning. This is happening in preschools all over the country.
Just recently, a school in my area decided not to go with the State legislation that had taken play based learning out of the curricula and to put it back in. Thank goodness! Happier children who are learning more quickly than their counterparts.
How do children learn? Play is a child’s work. They learn through experimentation, through hands on activities. They are essentially kinesthetic creatures who learn through their whole bodies. When you take that element out and expect them to learn through academia, it simply doesn’t work.
Children need movement. They need to experience things through as many senses as possible and when that is achieved, the learning goes deeper and becomes more permanent.
Think how the brain works. It takes in information from ALL the senses, reads it, works out what is, integrates it and then sends out appropriate messages to the parts of the body that need to do something.
The brain is amazing organ that deals with everything coming at it from all angles. Can you imagine limiting the input to a couple of channels rather than all that is possible? It would be like only watching 2 channels on television but expecting to know everything that was happening in the world around you. No one channel has all the information so we need to experience things through multiple channels so we have all the information we need to accomplish a task or acquire a skill.
Through play, children also extend current learning to acquire new, more complex skills. For example, when a child is learning to speak, and they have pretty much mastered speech, at about 4 years of age they start playing with language. They make up silly words, rhyming words, laugh hysterically at things you don’t understand to be funny in the same way. That playfulness is allowing them to understand language at a more complex level and how they later understand things like poetry, phrasing and storytelling.
Play is essential for every child to learn. I think even adults could take a page out of a child’s playbook and be more playful. It is a great arena for us to practice skills we may learn as an adult and certainly makes us happier as it provides a balance against all we have to do.