Within an early learning context, Queensland University of Technology Head of the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education Professor Ann Farrell says play based learning involves skilled educators to optimise the learning that is happening through play.
“Play based learning is paramount and those (early learning centres) that espouse to have a play based learning approach need to champion play because it is a definite advantage for children,” she says
“Through play, children experience, problem solve, communicate and make sense of their world.
“We know play is very important to a child’s development. We have compelling evidence of the importance of play to children’s development”.
“Cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills and taking initiative are all skills developed when a child learns by doing, trial and error and experimentation,” she says.
With evidence to support the fact that babies in the womb are communicating and interacting with the world around us, it is no wonder that newborns, toddlers and young children crave opportunities to learn and test new skills, Professor Farrell says.
“Play starts from the moment the child is born (even before) and we do see it in newborns," she says.
“Newborns initiate conversations, they communicate and learn how to exert influence over their caregivers, so we know there is no starting age, play is always happening.
“It is an integral part of human relationships, newborns interact with their caregiver for food or a nappy change. They initiate the exchange and the adult responds.
“Learning through play is not necessarily formal but is part of everyday life and parents should be encouraged to respond to the child,” she says.
“Be mindful that learning through play is set within the cultural contexts and different forms of play may be valued by different cultures. “
Encouraging play-based learning at home
- Let your child lead the play. Follow their interests without taking over.
- Keep play open ended. It’s about the process, not the outcome.
- Play alongside them. Get down to your child’s level and play as an equal, not as an authority figure. And don’t be scared to let go of your adult inhibitions!
- Allow moments of quiet and silence. This gives time for children to think about where their play is headed.
- Take time to just be an observer. See what happens as you step back, and think about different ways you could help extend the play.
- Introduce children to new vocabulary. Think about the language you use as you are playing.
- Play with a variety of things. Children will use many things that you might not think of as play materials. Boxes, cartons, tins and more can all be recycled for play.
- Balance inside and outside play. Different environments help to build a range of skills.
- If your child goes to kindergarten or an early learning centre, find out what they have been playing during the day and build on that at home.
- And remember – it is play, so have fun.