Many studies and research has been conducted on how free play can affect a child’s learning. Young children are interested in their world and what it contains. They are explorers- young, free spirits that have a natural desire to learn. Play is a key element to successful learning and foundation skills that a child needs before reaching school age. Kids can solve problems, create masterpieces, socialize with others, learn communication skills and so much more simply by being allowed to play.
Structured Vs Free Play
Parents can have a difficult time balancing the need for structured time and free play time with their young children. They want the best for their child, and many want to sit down and be specific about learning certain things at certain times. However, young children may have their own ideas of how this should work.
Kids can have short attention spans. Overloading their young minds with forced learning can do more harm than good. Free play is an excellent benefit to your young child, as it allows them to explore and to learn more about themselves and others. Structure can be beneficial, but in short time periods, and as the child matures.
What Play Should Be
Play has certain aspects to it that differs from work or focused learning. Focused learning and work are sitting down with the sole purpose of having your child memorize or retain a specific piece of information from the session. Play is more relaxed and can be directed or left to free play. Play is an excellent example of experimental learning. A child can play with his or her own free will with a mountain of blocks, forming buildings, counting the blocks, constructing paths or tunnels for their cars or other toys, etc. They are solving problems and initiating a higher thought process simply by being able to be creative in their own timing.
Things To Avoid
When trying to encourage learning by utilizing play, there are a few things to avoid. Young children can only focus for so long. Extended periods of specific or heavily directed tasks should be avoided. Trying to force extended periods of learning will not yield successful results and the child can become burnt out. Too much structure can yield the opposite and stress out the child, you, and weaken their desire to want to play and learn.
Play should have an extended time of uninterrupted and undirected free time. The child should be free to play with objects they find interesting and talk to other children or adults on their own accord. Forcing conversation or specific interactions with toys or other people can stunt their creativity and desire to explore the world around them.
Benefits Of Play
Play for children is a necessity. It has profound, lasting contributions to a child’s development. It helps them learn social skills, solve problems, and encourage as well as develop better thinking skills. Other significant benefits include:
- Foundation for emotional skills
- Social skills
- Physical development
- Speech development
- Stronger thinking skills
- Enhances creativity
Allowing a child to play freely sets a foundation for the learning and developing of all these skills mentioned. Play nurtures a child’s cognitive growth and is crucial to a child’s further scholastic and learning developments as they mature and approach school age.
Play encourages your child to think. Play isn’t just an action, it is an experience. It is a natural, unforced way of learning and creating experiences that a child can use later in life. It helps develop fundamental skills such as communication, socialization, and problem solving and readies them for school. Free play can result in higher learning and better grades, all from an activity your kids will love and look forward to each day.