Learning through Play
Kids grow and learn through adventurous, imaginative outdoor play. They develop an understanding of nature and learn how to identify and weigh up risks, manage consequences and overcome obstacles. Children learn by imagining and doing.
When you see your child take a rock for a drive, or bounce a plastic animal across a table top field, you are watching imagination in action. They are taking one object and using it to represent another. They give it action and motion and meaning. This process is essential for healthy development.
The ‘rules’ of free play
In a lesson your child is asked to sit back and absorb facts and information. In free play, your children take an active role among their peers and they interact according to the ‘rules’ of the game they have devised.
“It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” - Dr Seuss
This system of voluntary, shared mental rules is an important feature of these games. The rules might be announced out loud or unspoken, and they might be decided collaboratively or by a leader. The active negotiation of rules, boundaries and symbols helps our children grow into competent sociable adults.
Growing up big and strong
Little children play with their whole bodies. Running, climbing, jumping, hopping, skipping and dancing develop muscle and co-ordination. Encouraging outdoor exploration helps kids to grow courage and understanding of the planet we all share, as well as the threats and advantages of their local environment. Multi sensory experiences - including messy play, creative play and role-play - are an important part of growing up. Playing with art and craft - including crayons, paints, scissors, glue and clay - helps children to practice fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination.
Growing up kind and friendly
Pretend play is where your child actively experiments with the drama of social and emotional life. Co-operative play helps us learn to share, take turns, solve problems and take responsibility for our actions. ‘Play-acting’ means trying on another’s shoes, metaphorically speaking, which is an essential part of developing empathy and understanding for other people. Small children are naturally egocentric, and creative play forms an essential part of moral development in preparation for adolescence. Self-esteem and self-knowledge is furthered by knowing that you can be anyone you like, in the game. Experimenting with eye-contact, tone of voice, emotions and reactions helps children develop confidence in social settings.
Growing up conversational
Often when we listen in to our children playing, we are amazed to hear them confidently using words, phrases and mannerisms we had no idea they knew. Too often we hear our own pet phrases mirrored in their play - which is not always edifying. Kids can be excellent (and sometimes cruel) mimics! Pretend play gives children the opportunity to practise with the power of language, and use words to organise games and stories. Growing vocabularies are expanded in confidence, in a safe place free from embarrassment if mistakes are made.
Growing up thoughtful and smart
Pretend play is made up of problems that need solving. Negotiating, roles, rules or finding the right materials for a play-den are all important cognitive skills that will be useful for a lifetime. Trying out new ideas, new thinking styles and sharing knowledge can all be practised in safety among friends.