the power of play

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. 

– Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers knew what he was talking about! Experts in the field agree that children learn best through play. Play is simple yet complex, and through the most basic interactions with materials and people, children learn a variety of important skills that are not always obvious.

play-based versus academic

First Circle’s curriculum is play-based, not academic or direct-instruction. The theory of a play-based program is that learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves. Playful learning engages and motivates children in ways that enhance development and life-long learning. There is also evidence that play, more than direct-instruction methods, teaches children to be more imaginative and better problem-solvers.

Play may look unorganized and lacking in purpose to many adults, but in reality, children are mastering skills in all areas of learning. Each of the five areas of learning in First Circle’s curriculum, Connecting My World™, supports learning through play as follows:

me and you

Through play, children master many important social skills, such as cooperating, negotiating, taking turns, playing games with rules, and solving disagreements. Children also learn to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and feelings by exerting control over their play environments.

brain power

Cognitive skills are developed as children learn to solve challenges though play. For example, they may consider such questions as: what does this do? Or, does this puzzle piece fit here? Children begin to understand logical thinking, cause and effect, and mathematical concepts as they experiment with, manipulate, and explore materials.

imagine that

When children have open-ended opportunities to play with art materials, they develop their creativity and artistic skills. Their imaginations blossom as they explore dramatic play roles and listen to music.

healthy me

Physical skills are developed as a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb, and balance. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys.

word smart

Language skills develop as children interact with others. During play, children talk more, speak in longer utterances, and use more complex language. Pretend play allows children to practice creating and using symbols to represent other things, an important pre-literacy skill.

All of these skills can be developed inside the classroom as well as outside on the playground. Over the summer, children spend a great deal of time exploring the outdoors. Research has shown that playing outside provides tremendous benefits for children: not only do children enjoy active play outdoors, it allows them to explore their environment, develop muscle strength and coordination, and gain self-confidence.

stages of play

Children of different ages play in different ways. Most children pass through the following stages of play:

SOURCE: Learning and Developing through Play. Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework.

children playing in childcare center

tips for at home