In many people’s minds play is very separate from learning. However, research has shown over and over that play is one way of learning. This is a way that children are able to use their senses and make sense of the world around them. They learn essential social and emotional skills by playing with others, talking to themselves and exploring the world around them. However learning through play doesn’t end with infant and toddlers.
When learning is enjoyable it encourages creativity and imagination. So what does play really mean? For play to be an effective teacher it needs to be an activity that is freely chosen, not forced upon them. If a parent or teachers chooses the activity and expects a certain outcome this is work, not play. Work is fine for works sake, but children can see through our motives if we try to present work as play.
So if our child spends hours upon hours playing Legos, does this mean their time has been wasted? Not at all. I remember reading The Right Side of Normal,
and how one of her children was so intrigued with Legos, that he would spend all of his time immersed in this activity. It helped his learning in so many ways, and influenced who he became as an adult. Legos are amazing tools for creating future engineers. Lil’ Z is my Lego man, he can find his flow within his piles of Legos. He gets so creative and has learned so much about physics, fractions, problem solving and working in three dimensions.
Children need unstructured time for play on a daily basis. Play helps in developing the brain and lays down our fundamental pathways for continued learning. It’s sad to me to see the recent trend in public schools to continue to cut back recess time and in some cases, eliminating it all together. Play enhances learning, and does not take away from it. The best schools in the world, such as those in Norway and Japan, play a high value on the role of play and learning.
Learning through play is valuable for adults as well. It helps with relaxation, emotional well being, creativity and so much more. Keeping a playful attitude can help build strong relationships, relieve stress and make life more enjoyable. As our family has experienced a lot of grief, play can also help to heal and build strong family relationships. I love the attitude encouraged in the Playful Parenting
books. Even modern businesses especially those in the technology fields are recognizing the importance of play in the work environment. It helps increase productivity and keeps attitudes positive and increase job satisfaction. So for the love of learning, go play!
How do you include play in your daily life?