“Play is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein
I am a big believer in play-based learning. Children are learning so much when they are playing. It gives them the opportunity to discover, explore, take risks, experiment, problem solve, collaborate, and so much more! Play-based learning means that the child is developing skills in ways which are meaningful to them. The learning is naturally embedded throughout their play as they explore educational concepts such as literacy, math, as well as social and emotional well being.
I believe it is important for children to engage in uninterrupted free play. Children should have a reasonable selection of play materials and would benefit from some open-ended toys that allow them to use their imaginations and creativity (read my post here ). Uninterupted does not mean that as a parent or educator you cannot be involved or intervene when necessary. It simply means allowing them enough time to really get INTO their play; to play out the narratives they have come up with.
I also find value in providing children with specific activities or “invitations to play”. These are sometimes planned around a specific interest they have developed, but can also just be something simple that is put together to practice certain skills (ex fine motor skills using tweezers). These activities can be great for quiet time, independent play, cooperative play, and just for fun.
Our absolute favourite types of play in our home include sensory play, play dough, and pretend play. We do these types of activities daily in our house and there are so many wonderful learning opportunities to take away.
Sensory Play is an activity that stimulates your child’s senses; hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell. It gives children so many opportunities to learn and plays an important role in their development. When children are given opportunities to explore freely with their senses they develop language and math skills, fine motor control, and it allows them to use scientific processes while they create and investigate. Sensory play can also a great way for children to self-regualte or relax and unwind.
Play dough is technically a type of sensory play, but since we do sooo many other types of sensory-bin type activities, I am giving play dough it’s own category. Play dough is an amazing way for children to explore colour, texture, to role play, experiment, and explore. It’s a great quit activity or it can be funny and silly. There are so many skills that come into play when playing with play dough; fine motor, language, math, science. Whether you make a home made batch, or buy it from the store, play dough is one of those things that is always a hit with kids!