Young children are learning and developing quickly, they learn by playing, formal learning and experimenting in many different ways. As children grow they are also beginning to get a sense of their own identity and how they may be different from others, such as noticing that they are a boy or a girl, different outward appearances etc
Organised activities help develop children’s learning in an informal setting. These activities help children develop important life lessons such as taking turns, working as a team, and that you don’t always win in some situations.
How do young children learn?
Children learn through all their senses by:
- tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling
- watching and copying people close to them they learn language and accepted behaviour.
Learning through play
Play is one of the main ways in which children learn and understand the world around them. It helps to build their self worth by giving a child a sense of his or her own abilities and to feel good about themselves. Play is fun, children become very absorbed in what they are doing which helps develop the ability to concentrate.
Providing children with a range of activities will help them learn in a number of ways, let’s look at few different ways at how play can be conducive toward their learning:
- Sand and water play can be an early introduction to science and maths, eg learning that water is fluid, not solid, and that it can be measured in different sized containers.
- Playing with dough, drawing and painting pictures, dressing up, playing with dolls can encourage creativity, imagination and expression of feelings.
- Building blocks, jigsaws and shape sorters can help with recognising different shapes and sizes, putting things in order and developing logic.
- Playing ball games, dancing, running, climbing all help to develop body movement, strength, flexibility and co-ordination skills.
- Games help with turn taking, sharing and mixing with others.
- Singing, playing simple music instruments help to develop rhythm, listening and hearing.
It’s very important that the play based learning is fun at this age and they should not feel as though they are being coerced to take part, instead it should be very light and something they want to do. Play needs to be about doing things with them that they like.
They might find unusual ways of doing things – for a toddler, building blocks aren’t just for making towers, and painting can be done without a brush. Show them how things work, but let them find their own way by experimenting. Children each have their own strengths and weaknesses and when they are allowed to develop and learn as we want to, they will flourish the most.
Don’t push your child too much, they develop in their own ways and in their own time. Try not to compare them to other children or their siblings.
It’s also good to talk to them a lot, about everyday things while you are cooking, cleaning or traveling in the car. This will give you a chance to teach them how things work and why things are the way they are and it will give them a chance to ask you questions about things they do not understanding. Every day conversations then become an opportunity for them to learn something new.
What is the importance of play for pre-school children?
Anyone who spends any amount of time with pre-school children understands that providing them with opportunities for play provides so much more than a few minutes or hours of ‘fun’. Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self expression.
How can role play in benefit children?
Role play can be very helpful towards a child’s social development and can play a large part in their physical development too.
Children make sense of the world in which they live by acting out situations before they happen and by imitating what they see around them. It gives them a chance to process different situations and make sense of things that they struggle to understand.
Most children are naturally imaginative and will happily talk to their favourite teddy or drive the cardboard box to the shops, this creativity should be actively encouraged. This type of play develops children’s imaginations which is closely linked to intellectual development.
In playing there are many long term benefits to the child’s brain, their character and their learning. Although it may not look like they are using their time constructively all of this will help them in future to become a well rounded, intelligent and happy individual.