Learn Through Play
I keep mentioning "Learning Through Play", but what does that even mean?
We often use age to tell us when babies, toddlers, and then children should reach certain milestones. But what about when children don't reach those milestones when they are expected to? We also need to follow the sequence for how babies, toddlers, and then children should learn these important skills. However, without the proper equipment, the task of teaching these skills becomes almost impossible.
During playtime, children are constantly moving. This movement plays an essential part in children's brain development in that it helps to connect the two hemispheres of the brain which helps link emotional and logical thinking. When you think of some of the very basic fundamental skills we start to teach in elementary school you probably picture a student sitting at a table learning to write. And that's correct! We definitely do that. But before we can expect that student to have the fine motor skills to even pick up a pencil, they need the gross motor skills to support their body (Stevens, et al., 2013). These skills are practiced while playing!
Additionally, children learn how their bodies work while playing. They challenge themselves to try new and difficult tasks, see how high they can climb, how far they can jump, how fast they can slide. They learn how to be resilient if they challenge themselves too far, and how to be compassionate when helping a friend who is struggling. We often use the phrase "children are sponges" to talk about how kids absorb so much information from what they hear. The same can be said what what they see and what they do. Watching a friend try something new challenges them to try it themselves and then help another friend try it themselves.
Pretend play is one of the most challenging skills to teach. I believe that is because I am no longer a child, I don't need to pretend to play house, I do it everyday (and frankly, pretend house is a lot more fun than real house...). Observing children on the playground tells us that they are constantly imagining. Without the opportunity to be alongside peers, some students are missing out on a huge opportunity to be involved in the creative process of pretend play.
1 Stevens, C., Rosenberg, M. B., & Solis, L. G. (2013). The growing child : Laying the foundations of active learning and physical health. Taylor & Francis Group.