Play is a child’s natural way of exploring the world we live in. Developmentally, play covers all aspects of learning – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.
Play provides learning opportunities that are multi-sensory, interactive, creative and imaginative. Through play, children are not only learning about the activity or working towards an outcome, they are engaging with each other, negotiating, sorting out arguments and establishing friendships.
They imagine, explore and invent. It is through taking risks, discovering new ideas and putting these ideas into action that learning takes place.
The New Zealand Curriculum identifies and values the Key Competencies. All of these can be developed through play-based learning. With recent developments in neurological research, play has been confirmed as the most behaviourally, biologically and developmentally appropriate education to promote healthy childhood development.
More recently, neuroscience has also identified the important link between learning through play, physical movement and the successful development of key executive functioning skills now viewed as paramount for the adult workforce.
While play is an important part of learning, so too are skills in literacy and numeracy. Children still receive explicit teaching in reading, writing and mathematics, based on their needs or the needs of the group.
Learning through play sparks curiosity and creativity, allowing kids to notice, question and wonder. They can explore passions and ignite inquiry. They can collect, create and explore through trial and error. Play builds collaboration through problem solving, making connections and building relationships. Confidence and resiliency result through peer interaction and negotiation.
Learning through play is centred around building relationships and creating connections. Play can be individual or involve many; allowing communication skills to inherently happen alongside play. This in turn builds enduring relationships with children and adults alike.