Through play, children learn many skills, such as how to interact with others, solve problems, and accept different ways of thinking, long before they start school, or even kindergarten. These skills help children do well in school and in life.
Children, who feel good about learning and are eager, curious, and confident when starting school are more likely to:
• Do well in school
• Finish school
• Continue on a journey of lifelong learning
Children learn by playing in places where they feel safe, respected, and loved. Children’s early development, health, and learning is shaped by the day-to-day experiences within their family and community.
From the day they are born, children learn and develop by:
• Touching • Seeing
• Hearing • Smelling
• Tasting • Moving
• Doing (for example, playing).
Children’s play is children’s work. Remember, you are your child’s greatest role model!
To learn, children need:
• A secure attachment
Learning through play is about continuity; bringing together children’s spheres of life – home, school and the wider world, and doing so over time.
– Susan MacKay, Director of Teaching and Learning at Portland Children’s Museum –
Here are some things you can do to:
• Let your child know that you are there when she needs you.
• Guide your child to find the solution to the situation by providing her with options.
• Support your child’s learning by playing with her when she is learning a new skill and/or practicing skills she already has.
• Get down to the floor to be at your child’s level. This helps you to understand how the world is seen from her view.
• Show and tell your child that you are delighted to see her each time you pick her up from school or child care, when she wakes up in the morning, or at every other opportunity.
• Know your child and respond in the way she enjoys. The most important thing is to know your child is unique.
• Be engaged in your child’s day to day activities by following her lead and responding to her needs and cues.
• Spend time with your child observing, playing and learning what your child likes or dislikes.
• Acknowledge your child’s feelings by listening what she says. Use the phrases like:
“Tell me more.”
Here are some tips to help your child develop self-regulation.
• Allow your child to make choices (e.g., set out two healthy snacks and let your child choose which one he wants).
• Help your child to identify and label emotions. Do this by talking about emotions when playing games, reading books or doing other daily activities.
• Provide a routine so your child knows what happens next.
• Give your child advance notice when you are changing your routine e.g.:
– “Today after school we are going grocery shopping.”
– “In five minutes we are going outside.”
• Give your child reminders before the transition will occur.
• Give directions in a calm voice to help your child with transitions. For example:
– “First you will put your shoes on and then we will go to the playground.”
– “First we will go to grandma’s house and then we will play in the park.”
• Model self-control and self-regulation and talk to your child about them, e.g.:
– “I am upset right now because you spilled your drink, but I am not getting angry. I am counting to ten to help myself stay calm.”
• Talk about feelings. Label the emotions for your child so he learns how to express himself when the situation arises. For example when you see your child crying because he just got hurt you can say: “I saw you got hurt and you are sad now. What can we do to make you feel better?” You may offer a hug.
Play is the true work of a child. When children play, they learn. For example, when children are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down, climbing, running, and role playing they are learning. Through play your child is learning important skills and concepts. Here are some examples:
• She observes when objects are put in water (for example, putting ice cubes in warm water). She talks about what she sees and what happens e.g., cause and effect (science concepts).
• She learns how to sort objects by colour, shapes, size, and use (mathematical and pattern concepts).
• She learns how to find familiar words in signs, retelling stories or printing a list (literacy skills).
• She figures out how to get along with others, making friends, and being respectful (social and emotional skills and concepts).
• She has opportunities to develop thinking skills such as how to recognize and solve problems (inquiry skills).
• She is encouraged to walk, run, hop, throw and catch, and to practice her balance (large and small muscle development, eye-hand coordination skills).
Role playing is really important for your child. When your child role plays, she practices real life situations. Role play helps your child to build:
• Language skills.
• Social skills.
• Empathy (be more likely to be kind to others).
• Higher levels of thinking and problem solving skills.
• Skills for self-regulation.
Source: Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: What Families Can Do by Best Start: Ontario’s Maternal, Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre