There is an old saying that goes ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime'.
This is something of a mantra for early education teachers as they are the ones responsible for building the strong foundation for learning that the children can then build upon as they rise through the school grades.
They don't want to simply give the children the answers, but want them to learn how to get the answers for themselves and a great way to attain that is through play based learning.
Play based learning allows children to think creatively, explore, investigate and inquire about the world around them by playing.
It does not mean handing them a smartphone or tablet and then walking away, but rather giving them the materials that they can manipulate, build, create and wonder about at their own pace in their own time.
Kids are naturally curious and will ask many, many questions throughout the day. Allowing them to figure out how things work on their own or with friends allows them to understand things better while giving them a sense of accomplishment.
Play develops a foundation for intellectual, physical, emotional, and social skills, all skills that are needed for success throughout a lifetime. And the best thing about play based learning? Kids love to play and they don't see it as learning anything, but simply having fun.
Learning and doing for children are linked, they don't see any differences between academic learning and playing, that is, they don't understand that they are learning when they are doing but they are.
Play based learning allows the children to actively problem solve, it helps them with math and literacy skills and it helps them develop social skills like problem solving with others, sharing opinions with others and developing ideas about the world around them.
It is no wonder that many preschool and kindergarten programs around the world have adopted this model of teaching. It allows children to think creatively in terms of what they want to do and how they will reach their goal.
Kids coming out of the program have a lot of necessary skills that will serve them well as they join the elementary and secondary grades and continue their learning. The type of foundation they get early on goes a long way to help their future learning.
What Is Needed For Play Based Learning?
Play based learning is a concept that has been adopted by many preschools and kindergartens around the world. The theory is that allowing young children to learn through playing gives them many advantages and skills that they can use to build on their foundation of future learning.
It allows kids to think creatively, to learn concepts at their own speed and to self regulate, explore, think creatively and actively problem solve. It also serves as the basis for literacy, math and language acquisition.
So what then, does a preschool or kindergarten need in order to operate the play based learning ideal? Today a lot of people think handing a young child a smart phone or a tablet is ‘play based learning' but of course it isn't. Yes, young children should be given the time to work with technology, but that's only part of the bigger picture.
Blocks of different sizes and made out of different materials are a staple in the classroom. They allow children to build and configure things while learning problem solving skills and social graces. Table toys and things that can be manipulated are another great addition to the classroom. They allow kids to use their imaginations and create things on their own.
Of course plenty of art materials should be on hand, they allow creativity and imagination to run wild, as do materials that pertain to music and movement. Sand and water tables are fantastic sensory play areas and children should also be given the opportunity to have cooking experiences.
A library and a quiet area are also wonderful additions to the play based learning room. They allow for children to tackle literacy skills and also allow for a quiet place to reflect, wonder and rest.
No play based learning room would be complete without an outdoor space for kids to explore and develop their gross motor skills. Outdoor time each day is part of the program and allows kids to be creative with play during all seasons.
Language resources, literature, writing tools and paint stations are also all great additions to the room as they foster creativity and experimentation.
Preschools and kindergarten classrooms are the first chance a child has to learn in a structured environment and what they learn there will carry them through the school years. A strong foundation early on only fosters a love for learning and an interest in the world around them.