The Inter-Relationship between Play and Learning

In this article, we shall be looking more closely at the relationship between play and learning. We shall also look at some of the preschool children’s learning styles.

Play and Learning

By now you may have noticed that play and learning seem to be a couple of inseparable terms in the teaching of young children.

It is indeed heartening to note that more preschool teachers today recognize the importance of play for children’s development and learning and emphasize play in their classrooms.

However, not many of them know how to appropriately use play in the teaching of children.

In the context of preschool education, the importance of play is generally accepted. Although theories of children’s learning seem to be changing throughout history, in most theories, play is still viewed as an act of learning or as an object of learning.

In other words, it is believed that play means something by itself and therefore is of value for children’s wellbeing (Pramling Samuelsson and Asphind-Carlsson, 2003).

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In the schools, the play has been called “free play” to emphasize that children’s role-play is partly free from teachers’ planning and involvement. However, freedom from external rules does not necessarily mean that play is completely free from adults’ or teachers’ intervention and supervision.

Some Specific Gains of Play-Based Learning

The Inter-Relationship between Play and Learning

Although it may be argued that no single or universally acceptable definition of play exists, there are some specific characteristic behaviors of children’s play that psychologists and early childhood educators have identified as beneficial to learning at the preschool level.

This section of the unit will attempt to present a few of the research-based and confirmed benefits of play-based learning in childhood.

1. Satisfaction of Curiosity

Children usually enter school with a lot of curiosity about the world. This is because of their inquisitive nature, they learn a lot about the world as they play with water, mud, insects and everything they can touch, taste, smell or hear (Ogunsanwo, 2004).

When they play, children talk about things, ask questions and find out why certain things are the way they are.

The implication of this is that preschool teachers should be prepared at all times to ask and answer questions of children with all honesty.

Children are biologically prepared to learn about the world (Conenzio and French, 2002).

2. Expression of Scientific Skills

Science teaching at the preschool level does not require direct teaching, rather it requires a lot of practice and since children are naturally active, and self-motivated, they learn best from personal experience.

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For example, children love nature and make use of their natural and man-made environment in learning science.

Therefore, when they play with sand, water, and mud, a lot of scientific skills are revealed such as observation or well-thought-out theories (Ross 2000).

Science teaching, therefore, thrives in an environment where children are free to explore by moving around and using all their senses to find out and gain an understanding of the world around them.

This implies that if the teaching of science is to be effective; teachers also need to adopt approaches that are developmentally appropriate for children. Such approaches should promote their development of skills in the classroom.

3. Construction of Rules

When children play, they construct their own rules; they learn at their rates, and they formulate their hypotheses as individuals playing alone or in groups or, with a playmate. Outdoor play promotes an environment where learners are not afraid of making mistakes.

They also develop the skills of critical thinking and learn to solve diverse problems, which may not be possible inside the classroom area (Ogunsanwo, 2004). Hence the natural child is seen as being nourished by his or her creativity in play (Brunner, 1996).

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