Children Learn Through Play

Children Learn Through Play

Lev Vygotsky, an early 19th-century psychologist dedicated much of his life to learning about how children learn through play. Before the advent of the 19th century, not much thought was given to how children develop.

Learning through play has been determined to be one of the best ways for children to learn. They hone their social skills, learn how to settle conflicts with others, they learn how to negotiate during play, and take their experiences and apply it to other areas of their life.

Both team sports and individual play is important for every child. Children learn through play vital skills that help them to navigate life successfully. Play is so much more to a child’s development than just a good way to pass the time.

The Social Impact of Play

children learn through play

Infants are born with basic needs. Those needs drive their behavior. When they need to eat they complain when they need a diaper change they complain, if they are cold they complain, if they are too hot they complain everything that motivates an infant is relative to their own needs.

As an infant develops they start to become more aware of others. Play is used to engage an infant with others. As they start to become more mobile play helps them to fine-tune motor skills. By the time an infant is a year old, they are ready to start understanding social norms. Play is used to teach social norms.

Play teaches children how to share with other people. Think of the 1-year old that wants to roll the ball back and forth with a playmate. That simple action teaches a child that sharing can be fun. Children as young as 6 months can learn to solve simple relationship problems through play.

A child as young as 6 months old can be prompted to share when a parent makes a sad face because they do not have a cookie. Many times the child will reach the cookie out for the parent to take a bite of just to see the parent smile. Through this type of play, children learn how to read other’s emotions and the role that they play in someone’s emotions.

Physical Learning Through Play

children learn through play

Children have a lot to learn. As adults, we do not remember how hard it is to learn how to walk, to run, to catch a ball, to throw a ball, to ride a bicycle, and to feel confident that we probably won’t lose our balance and just fall over.

Children learn through play how to manage all the muscle mastery they will need to walk, run, throw a ball, catch a ball, ride a bike, and the million other things that the body needs to know how to do.

Play helps with muscle development, fine motor skills, balance, coordination, and more. Through the fun of play, the body develops. Riding a bicycle becomes as natural as breathing. Throwing a ball and catching it again feels like it is always something that you could do, but it is a learned skill that children learn through play.

Physical play is good for your child’s health. Using muscles, running around, and generally being active is not only good for development but it is good for their overall health. Play is wonderful.

Many of the things we adults take for granted were learned because we played. There is a litany of physical skills that are learned through play and cannot be learned any other way. Even if someone explains how to ride a bike you can never really learn to ride it until you do.

Each physical milestone learned by a child is learned through playing whether it is in the backyard spinning around until they cannot stand up to test their balance or piling blocks one on top of the other, children learn through play.

Three Key Ways Children Learn a New Skill

children learn through play

There are three ways that children learn. They learn through observing what adults around them are doing. They learn by receiving direction from the adults around them, and children learn from experience. Experience is when children learn through play.

Experience is one of the best teachers not just for children but for adults as well. Experie

Have you ever noticed how children’s playsets often mimic adult occupations? Child size kitchen sets, tools sets, car sets, and more all mimic adult lifestyle tools scaled down for little hands. Play for children is practice for adulthood in many ways.

Children learn through play by using these toys to practice. They use their imagination when using toys to make decisions, and learn how to navigate their world of the future.

Studies indicate that children learn through play and that this type of learning actually is stored in their long term memory when compared to the other ways that children learn. When a child is enjoying a game, a sport, or their toys, they are more likely to store the information that they learned.

Why is Play So Important?

children learn through play

All humans thrive when they feel like they have a purpose. Play for a child is very purposeful. Being successful at play whether it is putting together a new puzzle or mastering a video game helps them to feel accomplished, and promotes confidence.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the play is that it is a leisurely activity that children have the luxury of participating in, but the fact is “to play” is their “work”. The same priority adults give to achieving success in the workplace children give to play.

Consider the child that struggles to create something using blocks. They are able to succeed by learning and applying some important skills like:

  • Analytical skills
  • Motor skills
  • Decision making skills

Something as simple as block play has a profound effect on a child’s development. They have to be able to analyze the situation and figure out why their blocks keep toppling over. They have to focus and work hard on using fine motor skills, and they have to use decision-making skills. Other lessons that are learned from this simple activity is consequences. If they make the wrong “choice” for their block placement they will not get the results that they are hoping for.

Other games and toys play similar roles in your child’s development. For example, puzzles are ideal for analytical thinking skill development and problem-solving skills development. Playing with dolls, toy cars, toy tools, and more helps with both physical development and learning. Fine motor skills are developed, decision-making skills are honed, and the imagination is used creatively.

Helping Your Children Learn Through Play

Every parent has the same goals for their children. You want them to do their best in life, succeed academically, and have a happy life. As a parent there are things that you can do that will help your child’s play be more productive.

Team sports are an important part of development. Team sports teach children a lot about life, and about how to compete gracefully. Other benefits of putting your child in team sports include helping them to develop their focus, helping them to learn to take direction and work with others and helping them to feel like they are a part of a community.

A lot of parents forgo team sport participation because they are afraid of the bumps, bruises, abrasions, and potential visits to the pediatric urgent care that are a risk associated with team sports. The apprehension is certainly understood but the benefits far outweigh the risk. Most times a small injury on the field can be soothed with some ice cream.

Designating a specific play space for your child/ren can also help you to encourage productive play. You may not have extra space in your main living space but with a little construction support, you could put the unused basement to use.

Of course, no one is expected to apply for loan financing or forgo braces for the kids to have a playroom. You can do most of the work yourself, your kids can get the straight teeth they need and a great place to play in when you are willing to invest in some sweat equity. You can reign in the construction cost by doing the majority of the work yourself to create a great safe play space.

You do want to be sure that your basement is a safe space for your kids. Include a fire alarm system, carbon monoxide detector, and outlet plug covers on your list of things you need to create a safe play space.

Most basements are where household systems are like furnaces. You want to be sure that the space that you create for the kids is exclusive from the space where household systems are found. Putting up barriers can even work to keep children away from these areas.

Other Options for a Designated Play Space

learn through play

A basement may not be your best option for a designated play space if the cost of constructing that space is prohibitive or if there are other obstacles that would make the option impossible. Other areas to consider making a play room for the kids include:

  • Attic areas
  • Spare bedrooms
  • Garage areas

An unfinished attic space does not take too much to finish. Some sheet rock and some flooring and you can create a great space for the kids to retreat to and have some fun. An added bonus of creating a designated play space is that you get to keep the mess to a minimum. The children will have a place to keep all their toys out of the main living space.

A spare bedroom can easily be transformed into a designated play area. If you have the extra room make it into a play room and give your kids the opportunity to learn through play. It is important that children have a space away from adults to engage in play and learn to process the world around them.

You can also divide the garage to add a playroom. Leave a space for the car and either erect a temporary wall using a room divider or put up a permanent wall to create a great space for the kids to keep their toys and play.

Alcoves, under the stair storage areas, and other spaces can be easily converted into a play space for the kids. It is an investment in a lifestyle that you will never regret. Creating a space where your children can learn and play is the perfect way to support the skills developed through play.

Get Creative With Play Spaces

learning through play

There are many ways that you can create a play space for your children. An outdoor shed can be a wonderful playhouse. Even a part of a room can be a great place for children to learn as they play. Learning and play can take place anywhere in your home.

With a little planning and thinking outside the box you can create play spaces that help children learn through play. Play is an important part of childhood for so many reasons. It helps them to learn, grow, develop, and most importantly it helps them to create wonderful memories. Children learn to interact with others through play. 

Not enough focus is placed on the skills developed through play.  It can be difficult for adults to see play as anything but a chaotic blast of energy. However, children have a relatively sophisticated organization to play. Some of the skills developed through play can include collaboration, language development, and empathy for others. Allowing kids the time and space to make sense of the world around them through their imagination can help them many worthwhile skills further down the line.

Play is so important for so many reasons the young, the old, and everyone in between should be doing more of it. When your child is playing they are navigating their world and getting themselves ready for the world that is to come. This is one of the most important skills developed through play, a burgeoning understanding of the great world and what is necessary to be successful in it.

Encourage your children to play, and to do it often. Children learn through play and when you encourage the fun you become a hero for encouraging the fun, and your child gets the advantage of learning all they can through play. By giving them the room to explore the world, or will help with the discovery of skills developed through play.

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