In your search for the best playgroup in Singapore for your child, you may have discovered some programmes that use the phrase ‘play-based learning’. This might sound too good to be true! Can children in their early years really learn through play?

What exactly is play-based learning? 

Any parent will recognise how important play is to children, especially in their early years. For example, many parents stock their children’s toy boxes with various toys that mimic the things adults do – little pots and pans, even miniature brooms and dustpans. By mimicking the actions of their parents, children learn more about the world around them and how it works. However, this is not the only way children can learn through play.

How does play-based learning help infants and toddlers in their early years?

Play can hone their motor skills, improve their socio-emotional connections with others, stretch creativity and imagination, and even help develop literacy and numeracy skills. After all, one study shows that children in play-based classrooms developed stronger and broader vocabularies than those in traditional playgroup classrooms. In play-based learning, the teachers honour the child’s inherent curiosity and playfulness, channelling their energies to help them learn through play.

Play-based learning improves self-regulation and impulse control

Some studies have found that play improves a child’s executive functions.  Children in play-based programmes have shown better scores in measures of self-regulation, cognitive flexibility as well as working memory – all things which are predictive of later academic success.  Children who are given the tools to succeed early on are primed to find learning and instruction less daunting and stressful than those without such tools.

Play-based learning is self-directed

It can be difficult for adults to relinquish control, but it is important that play-based learning is directed by the child. In other words, the child gets to decide what to play and how to play. The play can be interactive, with the adult suggesting ideas, but the child guides the play, with active input into the session, so that they are interested and engaged in what they have chosen for themselves. It is vital that adults do not shut ideas down but encourage creative thinking.

Play-based learning is enjoyable

Play should always be enjoyable and fun for the child. While disagreements and frustrations may emerge, the session should be largely positive. This emotional aspect of play is important, as play supports positive attitudes to learning, including enthusiasm and persistence. A calm play session can also help children recharge and relax after a stressful or difficult day, especially in their early years.

Play-based learning is unstructured

Ideally, children in playgroups should be given enough time to explore and discover new ideas during play. Play that is overly directed or prescribed shuts down new avenues of learning and prevents them from truly exploring new concepts and ideas. In order to sustain play, children should be given options for play – such as loose parts, building blocks, or other types of toys.

Play-based learning is process-oriented

In play-based learning, the journey is far more important than the destination. This means that there should not be a “learning goal” or an objective for play. Rather, the process is the most important thing!  Confidence is built as the child tries new things and takes risks. They should not be made to tick boxes off a list. Children should enjoy learning without added stress.

How do schools make use of play-based learning?

At Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse, our teachers help our infants and early years children engage in purposeful play, where teachers facilitate play experiences that are enjoyable for the children by providing appropriate and ample materials, time and space for the children to stretch their minds and engage themselves in play-based learning. This is also reinforced by the NEL curriculum for early childhood educators, developed by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. Moving forward, this paves way for a smooth progression to the inquiry-based learning approach in the preschool years (N2 to K2). Just as with play-based learning, inquiry-based learning encourages children to take the reins in their learning, and also focuses more on the growing and developing process rather than a specific outcome or goal.

Find out more about how play-based learning can benefit your children

Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse focuses on giving our children opportunities to learn through play and exploration. Your child can blossom and thrive in such an environment. Find out more about our curriculum and programmes by booking a visit at your preferred centre.
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