During the Coronavirus pandemic and consequent lockdown, a lot of questions have been brought up about education. As children can no longer attend traditional schools, parents are having to figure out how they will manage their children’s education. While it is certainly a challenge, especially insofar as it requires juggling school with work with household maintenance in a way like never before, it’s also a unique opportunity to make individualized choices for what will best suit your children, allowing you to move past the typical understanding of learning as something that takes place through books, spreadsheets, and lectures.
Because, in reality, learning is so much more than that. In fact, one of the best ways to help your children learn is just to give them the space and freedom to engage in unstructured play on their own terms. This article explains why play is so important to learning and how you can leverage it to help your children.
Why Play Is So Important
If your kid would rather build structures out of Legos or play pretend instead of doing worksheets or sitting through Zoom lessons all day, don’t worry, they’re not being lazy or brainless. In fact, just the opposite. Because, especially for young children, education is about so much more than just learning facts and figures.
Many experts consider play absolutely key to learning. In fact, the United Nations has even recognized it as a human right for all children. That’s because play gives children a way to make sense of the world, letting them use their innate curiosity for the better. It encourages creativity and problem solving and lets kids use their imaginations.
Beyond that, play is also critical for setting the stage for further learning and brain development. It develops children’s emerging skills, motivates them, and increases their chances of enjoying the process of learning throughout their lives. According to the Canadian Council on Learning, "Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development – it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life.”
Here’s a short list of just some of the things that play helps children learn:
What is Play?
But just because play is natural and comes to children easily doesn’t mean that we’re encouraging you to go completely hands-off in their education. On the contrary, the more deliberate your children’s playtime, the more they will get out of it. As a parent, it’s up to you to make sure that your kids are being set up to optimally learn through play.
However, it’s important to know that play should be spontaneous and voluntary. There shouldn’t be any extrinsic goal, and the child should be engaged and enjoying themselves, able to stop whenever they want.
So what's your role in all of this?
Don’t feel pressured to over-schedule your child’s time with books and workbooks and online learning. Instead, give them the unstructured free time to try new things, invent, create, and explore. Create an environment that encourages and facilitates play. Give your child access to blocks, art supplies, games, and costumes and props for their make-believe.
The beautiful thing is that children can and should figure it out for themselves. So you don’t need to feel guilty if you can’t be on top of your child every second, micromanaging their time in the name of education. It’s okay if you need to focus for a bit on your work or chores or self-care. Your kid won’t lose anything for having more free play time. In fact, they’ll probably get even more out of it.
Photo source: https://unsplash.com/photos/ecRuhwPIW7c