Play. Yes another buzz word. Are we playing with our kids enough? It’s quite an odd question really when a child’s natural instinct is to play. A human’s natural instinct is to move and look how our sedentary we all are! In today’s digital world where portable technology follows us everywhere, we have to consciously schedule time for things like exercise and play.
According to Einstein “Play is the highest form of research.” It is well understood in research that play is how children learn and through play their motor, cognitive, social, problem-solving and communication skills develop.
But what kind of play is best?
I think we can all agree that the number one, universally understood characteristic of play is that it is fun, enjoyable or pleasurable. It seems an oxymoron to say ‘unenjoyable play’ or even ‘boring play’.
However, according to Early Childhood Australia, there are several characteristics of ‘play’ which begin to shed some light on why the topic of ‘play’ is not so simple after all.
- Symbolic play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if’ quality.
- Active play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or environment.
- Voluntary play is freely chosen but you can set up invitations to play that prompt the child.
- Process oriented play is just for play’s sake and there is no end goal or purpose.
- Play based learning where the ‘hook’ is the play but there is a clear learning goal or purpose.
While these play characteristics were listed by Early Childhood Australia there are so many additional play types including: indoor and outdoor, book-based play, digital play, sensory play, musical play, physical play, structured and unstructured play, goal-based play, interactive play, construction play, nature play and the list goes on.
Play opportunities #invitationtoplay
It seems crazy that something as simple as play can be so complex. But like all things parenting, it is a mine field out there. Good old Albert sums it up nicely “I do not teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein. He reinforces the point that play can be child-led but in order for maximum learning outcomes to occur, adults must provide ‘opportunities’ for rich play.
Providing opportunities for learning through play known as ‘invitation to play’ is crucial as children will not discover everything on their own.
Play opportunities may come in the form of:
Resources: books, blocks, sticks, paint, figurines, dolls, water, etc. all available or set up
Location: a new location creates a new experience perfect for learning; even moving toys from inside to outside creates a whole new play scenario.
Play partner: a playmate, an adult or a parent to allow for social and problem solving skills to develop.
Language: No language input = no language output. An adult playmate can model and extend on the child’s language as they play.
Don’t be a spectator! #bigkidsplaytoo
Play is a learnt skill, taught through adults modelling social skills, problem solving strategies, creative thinking and language scripts just to name a few. The best way to play is to stop being a spectator and join in. When we join in and play, we are face to face with our child, we are taking turns, modelling language and extending the conversation topic. So many wonderful positives unfold when we lose ourselves in the play!
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear eyed vision, that true instinct for what is truly beautiful is lost before we reach adulthood.” Rachel Carson
What is Play Based Learning?
According to an article by ‘The Conversation’, ‘play based learning’ builds on a child’s natural motivation to play and uses play as the context for learning. It involves both child-initiated and teacher supported learning.
Our Little Birdie memberships and book boxes are known as ‘play-based learning’. Each important language or literacy key learning area contains a hook or ‘invitation to play’ to engage the child.
The learning part is really for the parent so they know what language to say and do to support the learning. We have six language or literacy areas targeted in every box: WordPLAY, SoundPLAY, RichREADING, PrintPLAY, StoryPLAY and BoxPLAY.
Check out our fun book box themes: Puppy Play, Doctor’s Kit, I Can Count, Favourite Foods, Be Yourself, Be Magical, Jungle Love. All found at www.littlebirdiebooks.com.au/shop
The Secret Ingredient #justaddlanguage
A secret ingredient of play is ‘talking’. It comes naturally to some parents and not to others. As speech-language pathologists, research tells us that play coupled with talking creates strong, clear communicators and provides a sturdy platform for the learning of literacy.
Whether you are playing with water outside, dolls inside or supervising your child jumping on the trampoline, you can easily enrich your child’s learning and #justaddlanguage.
Sing a song, add and repeat a tricky word, point out something new or simply describe what they are doing. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
We have barely scratched the surface on this wonderful topic of play…but it is far from child’s play! Oh and we apologise for adding play to the long list of areas for parents to feel guilty about.
There are not enough hours in the day to be playing with your child ALL day but when you do get 5 mins to play with your child, remember these two points: #bigkidsplaytoo and #justaddlanguage!
Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies,
Tania and Janice xx