Play isn't a break from learning; it's the active process of learning for children of all ages. Studies show that learning from play helps children build lifelong skills, starting from the time they're infants. Doctors and child education specialists encourage parents to talk and interact with newborns because even though babies are unable to talk and walk, their brains are absorbing information all of the time. That's why it only takes a few weeks before an infant can recognize mom and dad's faces and voices. As children grow, they are constantly absorbing the world around them, especially when they're engaged in play.
Skills Developed During Playtime
Two of the biggest skills developed during play are fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills use the large muscles and are what children use to run, jump, walk, and skip. Fine motor skills are those in the small muscle groups, such as the fingers, toes, and mouth. When children are encouraged to learn outside games such as hopscotch, jump rope, dodge ball, and other sports they are strengthening gross motor skills. When children are given toys such as puzzles, jacks, cardboard models, and crayons, they are strengthening fine motor skills.
As children get older and learning from play becomes more about games and teamwork, social skills, logic, and strategy skills become stronger. Kids learn to work together as a team when playing sports games, build strategic thinking when playing certain board games, and practise logical thinking when building with blocks. So many cognitive skills are used and improved through play that it's important that children are given ample time to engage in play every single day.
How to Encourage Learning from Play for All Ages
Obviously, babies need constant interaction in order to benefit from playtime, so it's important that parents and teachers interact with infants throughout the day. Singing, clapping, laughing, and playing with baby toys is all that's needed for an infant's brain to start developing and growing.
Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy playing with other children and using their imaginations. Setting up a couple of places where young kids can engage in make believe play, dress up, and role playing is a great way to encourage creativity, gross motor skills, and social skills. A toy kitchen, puppet theatre, pretend doctor's office, and a dress up corner are good ideas for encouraging kids to interact with each other and use their cognitive skills to come up with games and activities using the props.
School-aged kids enjoy making things, playing board games, organising outside games, and imagining their own games to play. Make available a number of different board games that encourage logical and critical thinking skills, having a variety of outside toy equipment, and organise a craft box for those that like to paint, draw, and create. By offering activities that require kids to think, learning from play comes naturally and children don't even realise they're learning.