How Children Learn Through Play?
By Andrew Loh
A few decades ago, parents just used to enroll their children to
kindergarten to make them ready to go to school. Parents considered
kindergarten stage as the stage where children are transformed into
knowledgeable, responsible and smart individuals. To certain extent,
this point of view is valid and appropriate. However, admitting your
children to a kindergarten class is just enough to make your children
smart and intelligent. There is more to kindergarten that you can
imagine, and almost everyone is discussing about the validity of making
children ready to go to school before they are actually enrolled into a
KG class. “School readiness” is the buzzword for today's educational
experts and academicians!
Preschoolers need more of physical
activities than reading and writing programs, because nature provides
them a unique gift of learning by playing. Playing is a physical
activity but it involves a multi-dimensional learning paradigm that
makes children ready for their next level of learning, which is
kindergarten. Early playing and activities always facilitate early
learning. Playtime also provides an opportunity for children to absorb
new ideas, learn new things, and comprehend real meanings of events that
go on around their physical world.
Children play to grow! There are many reasons for it. All children
have their natural way of playing and learning in the process. Early
playing is essential for all children. In fact, playing never disturbs
classroom learning. In fact, playing is one of the important ways through
which children learn. When children play before going to kindergarten classes,
they would have initiated their brain cells to get ready for advanced
learning that occurs in a kindergarten class and beyond it.
Play and brain development are closely interrelated. Scientific research has already
established that playing at an early age can improve cognition and
stimulate areas that surround the cerebral cortex sector of brain. In
2006, Pellegrini and Holmes conducted many studies to demonstrate that
schoolchildren develop an ability to focus on their studies, when they
get a recess in between classes. The authors also suggested that
teachers should provide them an unstructured break when children are
allowed complete freedom to play as they wish and without supervision
from adults (please read the research report whose link is given below).
Two other noted authors, Stevenson and Lee (2000) reported that
students of Chinese and Japanese origin who are among the top achievers
in the word, usually go to schools that give them breaks every one hour
or so. Some people believe that structured and delivered physical
education classes are good for children. However, because of their rigid
structure, children may not get similar benefits as they would get with
free play that is unstructured and unorganized. Pelligrini and Holmes
also believe that intermittent recesses are good for children and each
session might last about 20 minutes at the maximum. Anything beyond this
time interlude could be counter-productive because children might get
tired very easily and find learning distracting because of energy loss
in the body.
Children learn linguistic skills by playing
Pretend play or symbolic play plays a great role in enhancing early
language skills among children. Fisher (1999) has already demonstrated
how play helps children in fine-tuning early language skills. In fact,
playing has many cognitive benefits for children one of them being
streamlining those areas of brain that boost linguistic and speaking
skills. This author also introduced a new educative word -
“socio-dramatic play” to explain what happens when children play
together and pretend play. In fact, the results demonstrated by the
author was startling - “results in improved performances in both
cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains.” (Please see authors
report to learn more)
Children solve problem creatively when they play
Humans can solve two types of problems
depending on their abilities to solve them by using their intellect.
These two types of problems are as follows:
Convergent problems that provide a single type of solution or answer.
Divergent problems that provide a range of solutions or answers.
Past research demonstrated that children who play at an early age
develop abilities to solve a multitude of problems at the same time. To
support this finding, two authors, Pepler and Ross (1981) conducted a
school experiment that consisted of the following:
One batch of children was presented with a number of play materials like puzzle
pieces. This ensured that children played with a system of convergent play.
Another batch of children was provided with materials for
divergent play like blocks and stack pieces.
Surprisingly, this experiment revealed that children who used divergent materials could
solve a multitude of problems very easily. In addition, these children
also displayed additional levels of creativity while attempting on
solving different problems. In other words, “playful” play can help
children develop a series of cognitive skills to solve real life
Free play can help children develop early math skills
Early match skills and free play go hand in hand!
Wolfgang and others (2001) reported that there is a close relationship
between sessions of block and stack play and academic performance
through lower, primary and higher schools. A session with block play can
enhance children's early math skills in higher schools when compared to
those children who do not play with blocks and stacks.
Free play can enhance imagination, experimentation and logic skills in children
With active play, children can develop
imagination skills that include representation of people, objects and
ideas. Just look at your children when he plays butterflies, cartoon
heroes and fairy kings. When children develop how to relate cause and
effects, they will streamline logic and experimentation. In addition,
they will also learn how to succeed after conducting several trials and
In all, children play and learn when they are
young. It is difficult to say what they learn when they are young.
However, one thing is certain - that they are more likely to develop a
series of cognitive skills with active and free play. You can continue to read
Children Learn Through Play - Toys for Boosting Creativity, Discovery and Exploration.
Fisher, Edward P. (1992). The impact of play on development: A meta-analysis.
Play and Culture, 5(2), 159-181.
Pelligrini AD and Holmes RM. 2006. The role of recess in primary school. In D.Singer, R. Golinkoff, &
K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=learning: How play motivates and enhances
children's cognitive and socio-emotional growth. New York: Oxford
Pepler DJ and Ross HS. 1981. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development
Stevenson HW and Lee SY. 1990.Contexts of achievement: a study of American, Chinese, and Japanese children. Monogr
Soc Res Child Dev. 55(1-2):1-123.
Wolfgang, Charles H.; Stannard,
Laura L.; & Jones, Ithel. (2001). Block play performance among
preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(2), 173-180.