The Benefits of Play Based Learning in Early Years
Early Years Education is the foundation for all learning to come. This education framework starts in Nursery or Pre-School and continues into the first year of school, Reception.
For most of us, school is embedded in our memories as what’s now referred to as the Traditional Model which is teacher centred and involves the teacher leading and instructing all of the learning. This model holds its own as we progress through the school years but for these initial early years research has shown that play based learning enhances children’s academic and developmental learning outcomes. This is where happiness gets results.
Research shows play-based learning for young children can provide a strong basis for later success at school. It supports the development of socially competent learners, able to face challenges and create solutions. The critical skills acquired through play form the building blocks of 21st century skills.
Children are naturally motivated to play. A play-based curriculum in a nurturing environment builds on this and in a learning context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. At Coworth Flexlands, we have free flow rooms in Nursery & Reception and both have their own dedicated outdoor areas and role play sections. Our Reception role play area changes to reflect the themes that the children have been studying.
This allows for child-initiated and teacher supported learning. Children are able to go to learning areas of their choice and teachers encourage learning through play interaction that aims to stretch thinking. Teachers take an active role in guiding children’s interactions in the play. Our small class sizes create a low child: teacher ratio allowing for plenty of personal conversations and thought-provoking questions. Teachers can also use children’s motivation and interest to explore concepts and ideas. In this way, children acquire and practice important academic skills and learning in a playful context. Children are also supported in developing social skills such as cooperation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating, and resolving conflicts.
Play supports positive attitudes to learning such as imagination, enthusiasm, curiosity and persistence, and so is especially suited to younger children not quite ready for formal, structured education as these are not skills that can be replicated through rote learning where the emphasis is on remembering facts. Play stimulates a child’s drive for exploration and discovery. This motivates the child to gain mastery over their environment, promoting focus and concentration. It also enables the child to engage enquiry processes of problem solving, analysing, evaluating, applying knowledge and creativity. Furthermore, play is a natural tool that children can use to build their resilience and coping skills, as they learn to navigate relationships and deal with social challenges as well as conquer their fears.
Research indicates the increased complexity of language and learning processes used by children in play-based programs is linked to important literacy skills. These include understanding the structure of words and the meanings of words. This combined with structured sessions on phonics sets your child up to be a confident reader.