The Benefits of Learning Through Play
The Benefits of Play-Based Learning
We know your child’s development is a main focus of parenting. You buy the parenting books or try to find a schedule for your child, but what worked for your first child or your friend’s child doesn’t seem to work for the little one in front of you.
You need to remember that no matter the child, development looks different. There is no “normal.”
However, there is one guaranteed universal reality-- play helps every child learn.
No matter where your child is in their development, the benefits of learning through play cannot be denied. Curious to learn more? Keep reading to find out the many benefits of play based learning!
Benefits of learning through manipulative play
Many people may not realize, but play comes in a variety of forms! The first type of play we’ll be discussing is manipulative play. Essentially, manipulative play is a fancy way of titling play where your child works with the toys around them, turning knobs, moving pieces, and/or adjusting certain parts all in order to make them fit.
Manipulative play requires your child to manipulate the toys around them to accomplish a goal, working on a variety of important skills!
The ToyVentive wooden activity cube is a great toy for manipulative play!
Cognitively, your child works on their fine motor skills, the skills that require attention to detail and being able to work on tasks where you must focus in order to achieve the end goal. Other forms of manipulative play that are less detailed, such as pushing and pulling, help improve gross-motor skills!
Improved problem solving, an important life long skill, is another benefit of utilizing manipulative play. Your child is faced with a goal that requires them to figure out how they must reach it through their physical environment.
Additionally, your child works on their hand eye coordination as well as they will be using both their hands and eyes while working on their manipulative play!
If you need some examples of manipulative play, here are some suggestions for you to try out!
- Work on puzzles! Puzzles require your child to find the proper pieces to fit in an exact spot, causing them to try out a variety of options that may or may not work. For more suggestions check out our blog post on play ideas with toddler peg puzzles!
- Play with a ball! A ball allows you to work on manipulative play through a variety of options! Kicking the ball, throwing the ball, and even dribbling the ball are all great ways to work on manipulative play with your child.
- Make jewelry! Placing beads or other materials onto a string is an awesome way to utilize manipulative play and end up with a fun product that your child can be proud of! The threading of the string through the bead highly develops your child’s fine motor skills.
Benefits of learning through physical play
Physical play occurs everyday and it may be what you are most familiar with! Whether your child is two or five, physical play tends to be a part of everyday life. However, there are varying levels of accessibility depending on your child’s age and abilities. Physical play does not have to be only what one typically thinks of, such as walking, as it is also activities your child performs through their feet, hands, and face.
Not only is physical play good for your child’s health, but there are also a variety of benefits internally. Physical play, like manipulative play, works on hand eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, and gross motor skills. Additionally, physical play works on your child’s balance, walking, running, and other physical skills that your child will use for the rest of their life.
As we mentioned, physical play has different levels of ability. If your child has yet to reach a certain milestone, it is okay. If your child with a disability struggles with certain physical play, find a form of play that they love. All play is important, but not all play works for every child. Do your best to learn what activities your child loves and works best for them.
Benefits of learning through role play
Role play allows your child to develop important skills. Role play is a common form of play, especially during play time in school. Your child may excitedly tell you how they pretended to be a teacher or doctor while playing with friends.
When this happens, you can ask them how exactly they performed this role. How did you act differently than your normal self? Did you think about your own doctor when playing this role? Did you enjoy playing this role? Would you want to become this role in real life?
Learn more about how to encourage pretend play!
Through role play, your child starts to gain a grasp on the social world around them. They begin to understand that certain people have certain jobs with different responsibilities such as a doctor helps heal them and that a mom or dad helps take care of their child. They begin to understand what it means to be professional versus how one acts around one’s family. Additionally, role play is a great way to teach your child important lessons through hypothetical situations.
When discussing hypothetical situations, you help work on your child’s emotional development in addition to their own sense of empathy, both key skills in growing up and establishing relationships. At times, it can be hard for children to think about the feelings of those around them instead of their own. Using role play, your child is able to put themselves in the shoes of someone else, thinking about how they would feel if they were in a situation they may have yet to experience in real life.
Additionally, your child works on their own abstract thought, a way of thinking that requires your child to understand concepts without a physical object in front of them. They begin to picture scenarios without needing a physical representation. Through role play, your child is put into a fictional situation where they must make choices using their own thoughts and beliefs.
Benefits of learning through creative play
The benefits of creative play cannot be stressed enough. Especially as a child, creativity is one of your only outlets to express your emotions. As a parent, creative play is a great way to understand how your child thinks and how they are feeling, as they may not have the words to express themselves blatantly.
Creative expression helps you as a parent learn so much about your child such as if they are happy, what they enjoy, and what they are trying to say.
Emotionally, your child is able to express themselves through art and toys that differ from their typically intended use. They are able to be creative without limits! Suddenly a simple puzzle piece of a lion has a name and story that your child actively plays out. The colors they choose to draw with may be more than meets the eye.
Ask your child, “Why did you choose this color?”, “Are you sad today like your drawing?”, “Is there a reason you chose to draw rain drops instead of sunshine?”. Not only is your child able to openly express themselves, but you are able to get a glimpse into their internal thinking.
In addition to emotion, creative play allows your child the opportunity to try new things without fear of doing something wrong or failing. When playing with your child, make sure to emphasize that there is no wrong way to be creative. Without this fear of embarrassment or failure, your child is able to openly express themselves and work on social, physical, emotional, and cognitive development!
They may try out new words they’ve only ever heard before. They may try to formulate sentences. They may climb a tree that has scared them in the past. That’s the best part of creative play! You can act, draw, and play however you wish all while improving your self esteem!
Want to learn more about the benefits of and how to promote creative play? Check out our guide to preschool creative play for more info, tips and ideas!
Overall, learning through play is so important. As you read, you saw that these different types of play often overlap! What is considered manipulative play may also be a form of physical and creative play! That’s one of the benefits of play in general-- your child is gaining so much through what we, as adults, see as a simple task.
Play allows your child to work on a variety of developmental skills in a way that they both enjoy and benefit from. It can be difficult to try to teach your child certain skills, especially when they are too young for you to communicate verbally. Therefore, play allows you to bond with your child while working on important skills you want them to learn.
The benefits of play based learning are endless. Together, you work on emotional, physical, social, and cognitive development without your child even realizing!