How play fosters learning

The simple act of children laughing, playing and exploring might look like it’s all fun and games, but behind the scenes this play is crucial to learning.

In fact, over recent years experts have determined that play is a critical component of the early foundations of education, helping pre-school children master a wealth of necessary life skills.

Here are just some of the ways that play fosters learning…

Albert Einstein and the influence of play

It might be hard to imagine the world’s most famous scientist playing as a child, but Albert Einstein attributed his love of learning to a key moment of play.

When he was four or five and in bed, unwell, his father provided him with a magnetic pocket compass to play with.

As he played with the compass, its ability to point north fascinated him, and helped inspire a life-long love of science.

“I can still remember that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me,” he later wrote. “Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

A world-recognised education foundation

In recent years there has been a shift in educators’ thinking, with experts recognising the importance of play when it comes to establishing the foundations of education.

In fact, Friedrich Froebel, the German educator who created the concept of the ‘kindergarten’, believed “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul”.

Now it is well accepted that play supports the early learning framework in a series of ways, with UNICEF noting: “Play is one of the most important ways in which young children gain essential knowledge and skills”. 

“For this reason, play opportunities and environments that promote play, exploration and hands-on learning are at the core of effective pre-primary programs.”

Physical development

Active play is all about movement and exploration. Children climb, run, jump, dig, dance, and swing their way through hours of fun.

This activity promotes physical wellbeing, while also developing both gross and fine motor skills.

Social and emotional development 

When children engage in imaginative play, they are learning key emotional and social skills such as empathy, negotiation, diplomacy, and resilience.

They are testing their communication techniques, exploring concepts and learning to navigate the world around them in partnership with their playmates.

Cognitive development

All this interacting and imagination helps build cognitive skills, assisting with key elements like recall, problem-solving and concentration.

This play also shapes children’s awareness about shapes, colours, counting, measurement and letter recognition.

Literacy and numeracy

As the Australian Government explains, play requires thinking, language, interactions, curiosity and exploration.

This in turn leads to an increased understanding of the words that they use and their meaning; listening skills, writing skills through scribbling, painting and drawing; story telling and plot development; learning that objects can stand for something else; and understanding that letters symbols and numbers have meaning.

How we foster learning through play

At Nature’s Kids Early Learning Centre, we have a focus on ‘real play’ where children are encouraged to explore and interact with their peers and the environment around them.

We view play as an essential element to learning, where early education is viewed through the eyes of children.

Our facilities are designed to promote exploration, imagination and play, and we carefully manage the balance between the balance between care, education and play, allowing children to discover their innate ‘Wildhood’!

You can read about our play-based education philosophy here, and view our state-of-the-art facilities here, or book a tour of our centre.