Play-based learning or learning through play is a seeming buzz-concept. It is referenced in activities, educational resources, blogs, educational talks, and more. While the term is becoming increasingly common, many may be left wondering why the phenomenon is so prominent and how they can facilitate play-based learning at home. The reason play-based learning is so integral to early childhood learning because there is an overwhelming and mounting about of scientific research that supports it.

There is now evidence that neural pathways in children’s brains are influenced and advanced in their development through exploration, thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression that occur during play. Research also demonstrates that play-based learning leads to greater social, emotional, and academic success. Based on such evidence, ministers of education endorse a sustainable pedagogy for the future that does not separate play from learning but brings them together to promote creativity in future generations. In fact, play is considered to be so essential to healthy development that the United Nations has recognized it as a specific right for all children. – Council of Ministers of Education Canada

Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as promoting language, cognition, and social competence… Children of all ages love to play, and it gives them opportunities to explore the world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem-solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self-regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school. – The National Association for Education of Young Children (USA)

So now you have a very brief summary of the research, the question remains how? What are the ways to get the most out of learning through play at home? I decided to ask my mom, a retired elementary school principal turned university professor and faculty advisor for teaching students, some of her advice. Here are her ways to facilitate play-based learning at home.

10 Ways To Facilitate Play-Based Learning At Home

Want to your children to get the most out of your child's play? Fascilitate play-based learning at home with these 10 strategies

1. Turn off the TV, tablet, and background noise of electronics. While technology can be a wonderful compliment to education, screen time should not be integral to a child’s learning. Even though the content may seem educational, there is evidence that using screen time as a substitute for reading or interacting with your child can be detrimental. (See one resource on this here)

2. Allow for large chunks of free play each day. You may have noticed in after a particularly busy day, you need to put your feet up and your child takes to playing. In letting them play by themselves, kids learn to self-regulate and are free to explore.

3. Let play be child-directed and give them ample opportunity to play alone. It can be tempting to control or coordinate play. However, child-directed play increases self-regulation and allows for more exploration and causal understanding.

4. When engaging in their play, follow their lead.  Get down to their level. Play alongside them. The purpose of Child-Direct Play (CDP) is “[t]o enhance the child’s sense of appropriate control, self-regulation, and self-confidence; to provide an opportunity for the child’s access to focused, uninterrupted adult attention and close contact, without having to rely on negative or provocative behaviors to do so; and, to improve the level of understanding between the parent and child and the child’s sense of confidence and security in that relationship.” – Dr. McCurry Ph. D. (see more on this resource here).

5. Imitate, elaborate and ask questions based on what your child is doing.  Try just add a little more vocabulary or description to your child’s play.  Be observant for their interests and add to their repertoire by adding something new into chosen favourites.

6. Introduce materials such as paint or play dough that allow for their manipulation.  Different textures and colours add interest and peak curiosity

7. Incorporate common household items to add a new dimension to their play. Tongs to pick up small items, oven mitts can be a makeshift puppet, a colander with pipe cleaners or dry pasta can act as wonderful sources of entertainment!

8. Get outside. Outdoor play is also excellent for children as they learn cause and effect, appreciation of nature and benefit from fresh air. They also develop coordination and it is fun!

9. Give your child opportunities to play with other children.  Through these opportunities they learn to cooperate,  negotiate and be kind.

10. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Rain puddles, a quickly jotted down list of scavenger hunt items, collecting natural items for painting can make a typical walk to the park more exciting and can lead to more fun once home!

What are your best strategies to facilitate play-based learning at home? Please share below!

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This is an excerpt from the article 10 Ways To Facilitate Play-Based Learning At Home which originally appeared on Parenting from the heart.