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Learn through Play

I want you to think back... how did you learn to crawl? How did you learn to walk? How did you learn to put a toy in your hand (or mouth)? As adults we often forget that play is the way all of us (and our children) learn the basic skills early in life. More often than we should, we think that children are only learning if they are sitting down and filling out a worksheet. In my opinion this mindset is dangerously keeping many children from learning more easily and/or creating a sense of frustration or dislike of learning itself.

It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of learning through play. It is part of why we started Lesedi Educational Materials. This does not mean for one minute that I think any other method is useless. Of course, there comes a certain point where children have to learn to sit down and write and focus their attention... mostly because that is what our society expects of them (because if we are honest even most adults would work better if they could move around and use different strategies for working that are more active and "fun").

"Children play to make sense of the world around them, and to find meaning in an experience by connecting it to something already known." (UNICEF)

Children are designed to learn through play and from birth have a natural curiosity about the world around them that pushes them to learn more and more. When my first child started learning to walk, she kept getting up no matter how many times she fell because she was "practicing" a new skill. How many of your children at a certain age wanted to open every drawer or box or pot or toy and put something inside? Observe any child around you and you'll see a love for learning even from birth.

So why wouldn't we use that natural desire to learn through exploration and play to help prepare them for a life-long learning journey? (Yes, life-long because even as adults we are constantly learning and developing new skills.) Let me give you a few reasons why teaching your child new skills through play is absolutely the best way to do things. And even if your child goes to creche or school, you can still create an environment of learning in your home that will support any learning they are doing outside the home.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY is important because:

  1. IT IS FUN! Observe any child or adult "playing." and you will see they love it! There is a smile on their face and they are completely engaged in what they are doing. Think of how you feel when you are doing something you love. That is how a child feels about play. Wouldn't you want them to feel the same way about learning?

  2. IT ENGAGES THEIR BRAIN. A child's brain develops the most from birth to age 5. That's why the experiences a child has in the early years of his/her life are the most important. They will set the stage for the rest of their lives. "Brain connections enable us to move, think, communicate and do just about everything. The early childhood years are crucial for making these connections." ( The more a child plays, the more brain connections he/she will create that will enable more and more learning as they grow and develop. This is on a physical, mental, emotional, and social level.

  3. IT HELPS THEM LEARN TO INTERACT. Play is the best way to teach children skills of interacting with concepts and skills AND with other people around them. Humans are created for relationship and a lot of how we learn to relate to others is learned in the early years of child development. Children can learn how to problem solve, share and play with other children, resolve conflict, respond to authority, use their bodies wisely, learn about risk and caution, understand their environment, and more through play!

  4. IT HELPS THEM REMEMBER MORE! Most research points to the fact that we remember up to 70% more of what we experience than what we only read. That is not to say that reading is not important. Reading is a basic skill children need to develop for life-long learning. However, if a child can read, hear, see, AND DO, they will remember more. If they remember more, they will have more prior knowledge to connect new knowledge with.

  5. IT MAKES LEARNING POSSIBLE IN EVERYDAY LIFE. To think that a child can only learn at school or creche is false. I am a former grade R teacher and I know my students learned SO MUCH before grade R and during the time they spent with their families even while they were part of my class. As teachers we only have children for 6 hours in a day. There is only so much even the best teachers can do. And honestly if most of a child's brain development happens before the age of 5, then children are developing and learning the most when they are at home.

All of these points about why learning through play is so important should encourage us to teach children in the way they learn best to set them up for future success and enjoyment in learning. It should also encourage parents that they don't have to be a professional teacher to be able to help their child learn new skills and develop at home. With the right support and plan, you CAN teach your child in the comfort of your own home through play and you will see how much they are able to soak up when they are having fun!

If you don't believe me, give it a try! Download our FREE 14 days of Learning through Play and try it out with your child. And take a look at our SHOP - so many resources to help support you teaching your child through play.

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