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Friday, October 30, 2015

Brain Games: 9 Benefits of Play-Based Learning

Photo by U.S. Army (Flickr)

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." I love that quote by Fred Rogers because it expresses my belief that play is essential for learning. Do you agree? Here are nine reasons why play-based learning is beneficial for our kids.

Play-based learning draws from a child's innate desire to explore, interact, socialize, and play.

Children are naturally curious, and they want to actively engage in their world. Imaginative, creative, and practical play provides plenty of opportunities for them to explore, interact, and socialize as they have fun.

Play-based learning motivates and engages kids.

Some kids do learn while doing worksheets or listening to a parent lecture, but my girls and many kids thrive while playing. For these kids, play-based learning motivates and engages them. They're eager to learn math facts while shooting hoops and are quicker to remember how to tie their shoes while they say a rhyme.

Play-based learning builds positive relationships with education and learning.

I know I want my girls to become lifelong learners who always explore, grow, and learn. If their educational experience is boring, though, they'll have no desire to keep learning things. That's why I appreciate play-based learning. Because my girls have fun as they learn, they're more likely to want to continue their education in the future.

Play-based learning enhances creativity.

Many modern curricula focus on facts but neglect creativity. That's why pretend play is crucial for kids. They can imagine scenarios, invent problems, and come up with solutions in an active environment that promotes and hones their creativity.

Play-based learning provides opportunities to practice skills.

When I talk to other parents about school, homework is one of our biggest challenges. That extra practice reinforces lessons from school, though. So why not use play to do the same thing? While reinforcing skills, exploring concepts at their own pace, and becoming comfortable with facts, they also have fun learning math as they play hopscotch or run around the yard, for example.

Play-based learning reinforces social cognition.

Empathy, taking turns, and negotiating conflict are all aspects of social cognition that kids learn as they play. By providing play-based learning opportunities, you help kids get along better with their peers now and in the future.

Play-based learning improves abstract thinking.

Sometimes, kids need to see more than concrete facts. They need to think outside of the box and feel intuitively. Abstract thinking is one skill kids gain when they play. As they build creations with blocks or consider what a character on a coloring page is thinking, they improve their abstract thinking skills.

Play-based learning helps kids problem-solve.

Kids can learn to solve problems in a classroom, but I want my girls to know how to think on their feet. What will they do when another kid is using their favorite swing or four kids want to play a three-person game? Play time helps our kids learn how to come up with solutions and find an answer that works as they problem-solve.

Play-based learning teaches critical-thinking skills.

All day long, my girls are told what to do and how to do it. I appreciate that they can learn to think for themselves when they play. They learn how to ask open-ended questions, consider multiple or unspecified responses, and interpret the results. On the playground, during family game night, or on the sports field, they develop critical-thinking skills that are essential for success in life.

Kids need play to learn these important skills and life lessons. I encourage my girls to engage in play-based learning. What brain games will your kids practice the next time they play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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