When adults think of school success, they think of students who can read and write at an earlier stage than their peers or younger kids memorizing concepts faster than adults. A good preschool or early education program helps children learn foundational skills like language and math concepts based on the needs of their age.
Of course, three to five-year-old kids will not learn when teachers give them books for ten-year-olds. Their lessons should be aligned with their developmental-behavioral growth so adults can introduce a more positive attitude towards learning. Rote memorization can indeed help. Bringing kids to a math teacher or tutor in their early years so that they can be ahead of their peers is also a great choice. However, limiting learning to board and paperwork will not give a child the full experience.
Why learn through play?
Play is a vital part of a child’s development, especially in their early years. Playing helps children’s development. It helps them become better communicators and critical thinkers. Games like shaking rattles, hide-and-seek, and even stacking are not just something that adults do to help pass the time. These activities help children develop their motor, fine motor, communication, and critical thinking skills.
Through stacking and knocking blocks or by playing with sticks, children are taught to discover concepts like shapes, balance, counting, among others. While children are not taught the concepts of addition or subtraction outright, these games help lay the foundations for formal education. Learning even starts from the way parents and caregivers engage with children.
Playing as a foundation for learning
The first encounters of a child in learning can shape how they think, even when they are adults. In the first two years of life, the brain’s significant development takes place. Without play and communication, also known as under-stimulation, children can suffer from physical and mental issues as they grow.
It is known that 80 percent of brain development is achieved as a child reaches three years old. This means that they do not have to wait for a primary school to be “ready” to learn. They are much ready to learn before that.
While these childhood games are important to lay the foundations of education, not all are privileged to have such resources. There are still low-income families where parents are forced to work long hours to feed their children.
A study shows that children who are engaged in learning through play do better in school. They also have better social skills and are less likely to be involved in criminal activity. Their incomes are also higher than children who were not able to learn through play.
Ways to teach learning through play
When teaching math through play, it is important to stir a culture where mathematical ideas are not just written numbers but are concepts to be reasoned through. Play is more than just rote memorization; it leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. It helps students to think and reason as they navigate through real-life problems. This helps them to be curious about different concepts.
Manipulatives like cubes, rods, and blocks are tools that can help students grasp mathematics through representation. Teachers and caregivers can also use counting objects like cards and balls to teach students how to count tangible items. Visual representations can also be attributed to playing. Giving students strings and rulers to measure objects can help them learn the concept of measuring.
Teaching reading through play can sometimes be unintended. Children can read through symbols, shapes, and forms even if they are not yet “readers” who can mix and match letters to form words that make sense. Reading begins with recognizing pictures and linking them to oral language.
These initial experiences can help students not just improve their reading abilities but their communicative skills as well. They learn to express their needs almost automatically with play. Reading and writing acquisition is also faster for those who learn through play as they are exposed to these concepts as they grow.
However, the ability of a child to read and write is not developed without careful instruction. Children have to be exposed to items with print, like books or flashcards. While they cannot read right away, some words are learned through sight. Introducing a drop everything and read (DEAR) time will also encourage students to embrace a love for learning at an early age.
Learning is a part of growth. For children to learn better, adult caregivers must support their love for play. Adults must recognize the educational and developmental benefits that it brings.