Children have an instinct to play
Play enhances every aspect of a child’s development and learning. It serves as their window to the world, helps shape their developing brains, builds their character, develops a myriad of skills, feeds their curiosity and fuels their love for learning.
There are many types of play
Certain types of play fall under the umbrella of “free-play” while others are more structured and led by adults. Each type fulfills a need and all of them are useful.
Certain characteristics of play activate deep learning
When our goal with play is to teach, it is useful to know how we can plan our child’s play to maximise learning. Researchers have examined the body of literature on learning through play and concluded that play is most educational when it is joyful, meaningful, actively engaging, iterative and socially interactive.
These findings draw on scientific evidence of how children learn best through play
The more we as parents know about play, the easier it becomes for us to discern which activities and games will be best for fostering a playful mindset so that we can maximise the impact of the toys we buy, the games we teach to our children and the time we spend playing with them.
Not all the charcteristics of play need to be present in every play activity
However, for deep learning to take place, each of the characteristics listed below should be present at some time and in some form.
Five characteristics of play that propel learning
1. Children learn when play is experienced as joyful
Joy is a key component of powerful play experiences. Children often derive great joy from playing with a friend, overcoming a challenge and experiencing success when they try something new.
Saying that learning through play must be joyful doesn’t mean that children should never experience neutral or negative emotions as they play. On the contrary, a certain level of frustration is needed for a problem to be challenging and children may at times feel bored or even slightly intimidated. Tension can be useful as it can increase a child’s sense of achievement when they finally make a breakthrough.
2. Children learn more when play is meaningful
It’s naturally easier for children to learn when they can link the new information that they’re acquiring to their existing knowledge. In other words, a play experience is meaningful when they can relate to it.
In one study, researchers found that children learn new words more easily when they are given the opportunity to use them as they play in a context that demonstrates their meaning. As an example, after being introduced to the word “bake” in a storybook, children were given the opportunity to pretend that they were mixing dough, putting it in a bread pan and placing it in a pretend oven where it could bake.
3. Play should be engaging
Being engaged may involve moving around physically or doing something with one’s hands, but children can naturally also be engaged mentally.
As parents, we can help our children to be more actively engaged in their play by intentionally selecting toys and play experiences that require active involvement and interpretation on the side of the child.
4. The play experience should lend itself to iterative thinking
In today’s world, simply knowing things isn’t as important being able to use what we know.
Practically speaking, this means that children learn more when we teach them to ask questions such as: “How can this be done differently?” and “What am I learning?” Educational experts refer to this kind of reasoning as “meta-cognition”.
The basic premise here is that we can amplify the teaching potential of a play experience by encouraging children to experiment with new ideas and new ways of doing things.
5. Social interaction supports learning
Children can make many important discoveries while playing solo. Consequently, there are times when it is best to leave them undisturbed so that they can immerse themselves in what they are doing.
However, it’s important to note that researchers say we can maximise the teaching potential of any game or play experience by encouraging children to share ideas, talk about their plans, listen to other people’s perspectives and collaborate with others.
Play has a key role when it comes to developing, encouraging and promoting many skills. Encourage children to play a variety of games with the above in mind, and support your child’s every possible.
We are excited about supporting you as you build strong foundations for your child’s future in different ways.
In light of this, there are many interesting, fun and engaging games that are perfect for developing a variety of skills in 3 to 5 year olds. If your child is in this age group, we invite you to sign up – at no charge – to receive developmental milestone reminders and information from us on a monthly basis, aimed at supporting childrens development in all domains. To benefit from this drive from this month until your child’s sixth birthday, please sign up here.
As an extra bonus, we are also adding a downloadable activity that is intentionally designed to be joyful, meaningful, actively engaging, iterative and socially interactive.
Please follow this link to download your activity.
NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (with DHA), contains HMO (a unique carbohydrate) and BIFIDUS (a lactic acid producing culture).
Support your child’s every possible
IMPORTANT NOTICE. NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is not a breastmilk substitute, and is formulated to support the changing needs of healthy children older than 3 years.
Ogilvy December 2021
Recipe code: ZAJEPB017
References: [For regulatory purposes only]
1. Brown S. Play is more than just fun. TED Talk [online] 2008 [cited 2021 Nov 2]. Available from: URL: https://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_play_is_more_than_just_fun
2. Burghardt GM. Defining and Recognizing Play. In: Pellegrini AD, editor. The Oxford Handbook of the Development of Play Oxfod University Press; 2011.
3. Zosh JM, Hopkins EJ, et al. Learning through play: a review of the evidence. The LEGO Foundation. DK; 2017.
4. The LEGO Foundation. What we mean by: Learning through Play. Koldingvej, DK: LEGO Foundation; 2017. Available from: URL: https://www.legofoundation.com/media/1062/learningthroughplay_leaflet_j…
5. Han M, Moore N, et al. Does Play Make a Difference? How Play Intervention Affects the Vocabulary Learning of At-Risk Preschooler. Am J Play 2010;3(1):82–105.
6. Chick N. Metacognition. Thinking about One’s Thinking. Center for Teaching Vanderbijlt University. 2013.