When your friends chat about the enrichment classes that they send their kids to, do you feel a small tinge of FOMO (fear of missing out)? Here in Singapore, many of us spend much of our weekends shuffling our kids from phonics, to mandarin, to abacus, to right-brain classes. I have certainly been tempted to send my pre-schooler to these courses after hearing good reviews (and I have signed her up for some too).
Children however, do learn best through play during their early years. Scientific studies have shown that the brain progresses the most between birth till 8 years old. During this period, children are developing their cognitive and language abilities, motor skills, and their social interactions and self-worth. And the best way for them to retain these skills and information is through play!
And why so?
Firstly, play is fun, so it engages the child's interest and helps build their inquisitiveness.
Play is also an iterative process. If you notice that your little one tends to do a task repeatedly, such as throwing a ball over and over again, (or for a baby – throwing their food onto the floor) , it is because in their little minds, they are asking themselves– how can I throw it further? How can I catch it? How can I make it bounce higher? If I throw the food on the floor again, will mummy pick it up again? It may not seem like much from our point of view, but much learning is happening during this process such as problem solving, planning, experimenting, logical thinking and social interactions.
For the little baby, she can learn during sensory play about the difference between soft silk compared to a hard piece of wood, or a scratchy sponge. She might even learn about how these different items taste 😊
For the toddler and the pre-schooler, playing with their friends teaches them how to share and cooperate. Building a jigsaw puzzle or stacking building blocks encourages analytical thinking and concentration. Loose part toys gives opportunity to teach matching, sorting by colour, shape and size, and of course, imaginative play.
Role-playing as a doctor or a chef helps them understand their world around them, express themselves, and build their vocabulary. Playing with play dough and doing craftwork allows them to hone their concentration and fine motor skills. A makeshift obstacle course helps them build their gross motor skills.
In essence, play is how children make sense and discover their world. It stirs their imagination and creativity, nurtures their social and problem-solving skills and allows them to gain confidence as they acquire mastery over skills. You can support their learning process by preparing the right educational tools and supplies that work together to build their developmental growth. The learning opportunities that play brings is limitless!
The FLH Team