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Preschool and the Importance of Play

When choosing the best preschool for your child, you’ve likely considered endless factors: educational philosophies, teacher experience and curricula. But, one area that parents often overlook is the priority a school places on creative play.

Perhaps you think play is something children engage in when they need a break from learning. In fact, it is during the act of play that children learn valuable skills not taught in the classroom. As play specialist and PhD, O. Fred Donaldson, said:

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”

Research shows that early childhood is a time of phenomenal brain development in children. Young brains actually change size and shape as they are learning. It is through play that children process experiences critical to brain development.

Let’s look at a few of the benefits of play-based learning for children.

Executive Function

Self-control, paying attention, and controlling emotions are part of executive function. Developing these critical skills begins in early childhood, but affects the ability to set goals, plan, and accomplish tasks as adults.

Through play, children learn to develop executive function skills. Pretend play challenges children engage in play according to “rules”. For example, if a child is pretending to be a cashier at the grocery store, what does that look like? How will he or she behave? If the child is pretending to be a parent, what are the rules? Perhaps they make meals for their “children”, go to work, or cook dinner.

Developing and honing executive function skills in early childhood will help students accomplish critical, everyday tasks as adults.

Communication Skills

The art of play helps in the development of language and communication skills in young children. During early childhood, language skills develop at lightning speed.

Organic play provides opportunities for children to practice communicating and listening. And, it is through talking and listening that children expand their vocabulary. Consequently, studies show that children with broad vocabularies and the ability to express their own thoughts are more likely to become life-long readers.

Motor Skills

Play is critical to motor development. By encouraging children to move their bodies in different ways, play can benefit both gross and fine motor skills.

Gross motor skills – These motor skills allow children to control their arms, legs, head and torso. Play that encourages the development of gross motor skills can include playing hopscotch, riding a peddle toy, throwing balls of different sizes, and crawling through tunnels.

Fine motor skills – To improve fine motor skills, children must practice controlling the muscles in hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Working with modeling clay, stacking blocks, picking up marbles with toes and stringing cheerios are all activities that improve fine motor skills.

Emotional Development

Helping children develop emotionally is an important part of play. Through playful interactions, children learn resilience, self-esteem, confidence, and empathy. They learn to deal with difficult emotions in a safe environment when pretending to be sad or frightened.

Play aids in the development of coping strategies that will serve children beyond early childhood and into their adult lives.

Boosts Creativity

Creativity is a skill that must be learned, and pretend play provides the perfect environment for this to happen.

Play encourages creativity, allowing children to navigate various scenarios—both real and imaginary. Whether they are pretending to be the classroom teacher or storming a castle built of blocks, children are acting as creative critical thinkers, learning to problem solve and to be adaptable within their environment.

Through play, children learn how to control their corner of the world, exercising the power of their own choice and learning to make decisions that will drive play in the desired direction. It is during play that children learn a sense of self and who they want to be within their own classroom and community.

Develops Problem Solving Skills

Interactive play provides wonderful opportunities for children to practice problem solving. As a child builds a block tower and watches it topple over, he or she learns about the properties and limitations of gravity. Deciding who gets to go first during a game and settling disputes with classmates in healthy ways are ways children practice problem solving skills.

As you search for the right preschool for your child, ask how play is incorporated into the classroom experience. After all, it is through play that your child will develop a better understanding of self and of the world around him or her.

For any more information, call Clovel Childcare and Early Learning Centre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. For any information about our Educational Programs, give us a call at 02 9199 0294 or fill in this contact us form.

Thanks for reading,
Clovel Childcare
1300 863 986