Learning to play or playing to learn?

When parents ask me what their children should achieve by the end of the Foundation Stage my response is always the same “for them to be happy and confident”. This is something I feel that the children of Regent International School not only succeed in, but excel at. But, how do our teachers embed the skills and knowledge needed to exceed academically whilst allowing them to flourish as confident and happy individuals? The simplest answer is by encouraging children through a medium that they are already experts in – ‘play’.

A lack of play in early childhood development can lead to ‘under stimulation’ which can then result in detrimental consequences; physical, mental and academic. Play not only helps children make sense of the world around them, but also allows them to develop high-level communication skills and maintain an active and healthy lifestyle through increased physical activity.

Play is often seen by adults as something that we just simply ‘enjoy’ and is a part of the school day. Some also believe that it has very little contributing factor to the success of a child academically, despite the fact that for many years academics have known that we learn through play as a way of acting out experiences and situations that otherwise would be difficult to recreate let alone master.

The English educator Pie Corbett has often been quoted as saying, “If you can’t say it, you cannot write it”, this is very true and highlights the importance of speaking and listening skills. It is also then true to say ‘you cannot say it if you have not experienced it’ and play allows us to experience complex situations and use the language associated to different abstract topics. When the children are playing in the ‘Jungle’ role play area they are using language and skills they otherwise would only be acquiring through the real life experience of a Jungle safari. When the children are making cakes on the playdough table they are learning about shape, space and measure, collaboration and turn taking and they are using the language linked to this activity.

I look forward to discussing this topic further on 13th January at Regent International School for the Mindful Monday session focusing on ‘Importance of Play in the Early Years’. Book your seat now to attend this free parent workshop.

David Williams
Head of EYFS and Key Stage 1
Regent International School

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