A child’s innate playfulness is irrepressible, particularly in primary school children. It has been described as a plant pushing up through a crack in the concrete. When given even the slightest opportunity, many children seize the moment to create imaginative play episodes. This is something we witness every day. Even something as mundane as walking the class to the bathroom, (which is roughly ten metres away), I am always amused by the number of times I have seen students pick up a stick along the way using it as a magic wand, a pirate’s sword or as a conductor’s baton. Play is in a child’s core being. The power of play is the engine of learning in early childhood and is a vital force for young children’s physical, social, and emotional development. In the classroom, play must be reframed and seen not as an opposite to work but rather as a complement. We need to foster students’ curiosity, imagination, and creativity which can all be done during playful learning experiences.
Benefits of Play
“Young children work hard at play. They invent scenes and stories, solve problems, and negotiate their way through social roadblocks. They know what they want to do and work diligently to do it. Because their motivation comes from within, they learn the powerful lesson of pursuing their own ideas to a successful conclusion. Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than nonplayers, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking. Animal research suggests that they have larger brains with more complex neurological structures than nonplayers.” (Miller & Almon, 2009).
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact with the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practising adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges. Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.” (Ginsburg, 2007).
Types of play in our Prep Classrooms at Primary school
In our Prep classroom, we try to make room for all the various forms of play. Part of our curriculum in Term 2 and 3 is Nature Based Learning where learning and discovery is taken outdoors in our beautiful natural environment. Playful learning and exploration are our core business in Prep. Types of play include:
Gross-motor play: Children love to climb, run, slide, swing, jump, and engage in every type of movement possible. Such play develops coordination, balance, and a sense of one’s body in the space around it.
Fine-motor play: Play with small toys and activities like stringing beads, playing with puzzles, and sorting objects into types develops dexterity.
Construction play: Building houses, ships, forts, and other structures is a basic form of play that requires skill and imagination.
Make-believe play: This broad category incorporates many other play types and is rich with language, problem-solving, and imagination. It frequently begins with “Let’s pretend” and goes on to include anything children might have experienced or imagined.
Written by Mrs Sally Genest, Prep Teacher
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