Albert Einstein once said: “play is the highest form of research”. Play presents the
mini Einsteins around us with unlimited opportunities. It allows the imagination to
run wild and encourages skills such as socialisation, communication and sharing.
One of the most important things we can do is to facilitate play, and educational toys
can benefit even the youngest of children.
Research has shown that play contributes to cognitive skills and creativity in children. Problem-solving games including stacking blocks and puzzles help to develop cognition whilst imaginative play and art expression increase creativity. In addition, there are physical benefits to play as children develop fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and fitness. Playtime provides feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, leading to feelings of wellbeing and good later mental health outcomes.
As if these were not reasons enough to work hard but play harder, playtime also provides opportunities for children to fully engage with parents, other children and their educators, strengthening bonds and attachments. Perhaps because of this above everything else, play is a vital part of early education. In the early childhood sector, learning through play is a common part of practice and policy.
Guided by the EYLF, educators spend their days playing and facilitating play in order to foster development. They EYLF defines play-based learning as ‘a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they engage actively with people, objects and representations’. Early childhood educators create quality adult-child interactions, introduce intentional teaching sessions and support children as they learn fair play.
It is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development… so the next time you engage in with a child in play, remember there is much more going on than just fun!