At Heights Cooperative Preschool, we believe in the educational power of play! We do not separate our curriculum into discrete blocks of time for math, language, etc. Rather, children learn about themselves and the world around them through investigation and discovery, and through art, dramatic play, and social interactions.
Important areas such as literacy and numeracy development are introduced and woven through all activities. Research shows that children learn best through play, using their bodies in active learning. We provide many learning opportunities through meaningful play. But what is play-based learning?
What Is Play-Based Learning?
Play-based learning is a teaching method that focuses on the use of games and play to help children learn. It has been shown to be an effective way to engage children in class, improve their academic performance, and even decrease levels of stress.
Play-based learning methods work by immersing children in the material they are being taught. This can be done through game-based activities, which help to stimulate children’s interest in the subject matter, or through hands-on activities that give them a real-life experience with the material.
In a preschool setting, for example, teachers may use play to introduce new concepts such as numbers or letters. By playing together, children learn the skills needed to understand the information being presented.
Why Is Play-Based Learning So Effective?
There are a number of reasons why play-based learning is an effective method of education.
First, play is a natural way for children to learn. When they are engaged in fun activities that relate to the material they are being taught, they are more likely to remember what they have learned.
Second, play fosters creativity and imagination. By allowing children to explore and experiment with new ideas, they are more likely to come up with new solutions to problems. This type of thinking is essential for problem-solving skills and for learning HOW things work.
Third, play helps children build social skills. By playing together, children learn how to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively. They also learn how to cooperate and share resources (such as toys or materials). These skills can be used in everyday life, as well as in school settings where teamwork is required.
Fourth, play provides children with a sense of accomplishment. When they achieve something positive through play-based learning activities, it can boost their confidence and self-esteem. This kind of positive reinforcement can help them stay motivated throughout the learning process.
Play-Based Learning in the Classroom
There are a number of ways to incorporate play-based learning in the classroom. In our classrooms at Heights Cooperative Preschool, we have designated spaces for students to learn in many different ways.
For circle time, students gather together for stories, songs, and other engaging activities. In a cozy corner, one or two students at a time can take a quiet break and enjoy a book or toy. Our classrooms also incorporate dramatic play spaces, including real-life models such as a kitchen and table, a store, and other environments where children can model what they have seen adults do in daily life.
Many of our students aren't reading books yet, but our early literature spaces include letters and words for children to practice with in fun ways. Incorporating loose parts and blocks gives the children an opportunity to create their own games and rules, teach those games to other students, and play together without being limited by pre-designed game rules.
Sensory areas help students get to know different materials and sensations, and can be extremely soothing and self-regulating! And creativity is also a great way for kids to explore learning through play, when they can see the result of mixing paint colors or using different types of craft materials.
How to Choose the Right Games and Activities for Students
There are a number of factors we take into account when choosing play-based learning games and activities for our students. These include their level of development, prior knowledge, and interests.
1. Level of Development. Certain activities are better suited for older students, while others are more appropriate for younger students. For example, activities that require working with numbers or letters may be better for 3rd or 4th grade students, while a game about making ice cream might be more appropriate for pre-kindergarteners.
2. Prior Knowledge. It's important to choose games and activities that challenge your students without overwhelming them with too much information at once. For example, a game about counting to 20 can be a great introduction to counting, but it might be too difficult for kids who haven't learned their numbers yet.
3. Interests and Hobbies. One of the best ways to engage your students is to find out what their interests and hobbies are! This way, you can find games and activities that align with those interests and help them learn in a fun way!
If you're not sure which games and activities are best for your class, check out our online resource library. In there, you'll find a variety of play-based learning games and activities that can help you enhance your students' learning experience.
How to Encourage Children To Participate In Play-Based Learning Sessions
One of the best ways to encourage children to participate in play-based learning sessions is to make them feel comfortable. This means providing them with the right environment and making sure that the games and activities are easy to follow.
We encourage children to participate in play-based learning sessions by:
Play-Based Learning is at Your Fingertips
In this article, we've discussed how play-based learning can be used in the classroom to enhance learning and engagement. We've also provided tips on how to choose games and activities that are suitable for students, how to encourage them to participate, and how to make the sessions as comfortable as possible.
By implementing play-based learning into the classroom, we can improve engagement and enhance student learning. Overall, play-based learning is a great way to engage students and help them learn more effectively. By using the tips provided in this article, you can even create dynamic and fun sessions at home that will have a positive impact on your children’s learning!