This post is by regular contributor Kate Fairlie of Picklebums.
“Children learn best through play.”
It’s a line that early childhood professionals trot out again and again, but what does it really mean when it comes to you, your child and every day life?
Often it means that we adults need to let go a little and trust that our children really will learn the skills they need through play.
Let go of what you think your child should be interested in and what you think they should be doing or learning.
Instead, watch and listen and find out what really makes your child’s eyes light up. What areas of development they are engrossed in practicing over and over again? What things do they do again and again despite you asking them not to?
Use that information to really connect with where your child is at, then you can offer them activities and toys that really interest them and are perfect for their stage of development. Children learn best when they are engaged in activities that interest them and when they are allowed to learn at their own pace.
Let go of your adult ideas of how children should interact with an activity or toy.
So you give them a container of lego and instead of building the house that is pictured on the box your child begins to sort the lego pieces into colours….
Resist the urge to jump in and show them the ‘right’ way to play, because there is no one ‘right’ way to play with a toy. Allow your child the freedom to explore their world in any way they choose (as long as it is safe) and you give them the freedom to develop skills such as creative thinking and problem solving, and encourage confidence and self esteem.
Let go of your preconceived outcomes.
It won’t be long until they are telling you that the sun can’t be green or that they are cross because their drawing of a cat doesn’t look real and isn’t any good. Enjoy and encourage their creative freedom now, don’t squash it!
It is the doing that is important, not the outcome. Allowing your child the time, space and freedom to explore and create without any pre-conceived outcome allows them to experiment, take risks, try new ideas, build confidence and more (for more information about process oriented art check out Christie’s ebook, Art Not Craft).
Let go of your time constraints.
Life is busy. How many times a day do we tell our kids to hurry up? How often are we rushing from one thing to the next?
One of the easiest things we can do to encourage our kid’s learning is to give them time… lots of uninterrupted play time. Sometimes long stretches of play time are not easy to come by but take a closer look at your schedule, can you dedicate more time to unstructured play and less to running around? If time is still a problem, can you find a space to play that allows your children to leave their play as is to come back to later?
Let go of your fears.
In today’s society of ‘hot housing’ and one hundred and one extra curricula activities for toddlers it is easy to get caught up in the worry and guilt that unless your child is doing worksheets or attending piano lessons that they will be left behind.
Take a big breath and let go of these crazy ideas. There has been extensive research and many books written about the importance of play and how it builds smarter, happier, healthier children and, in the long term, adults.
There is plenty of time for children to sit still and learn passively when they are older, much older. For now, when they are little, their job is to run and yell and touch and imagine and experiment and climb and dance…. and play and learn.
What do you most need to let go of to let your children learn through play?