Fred Rogers said it best when he said “But for children, play is serious learning….play is the work of childhood.” Mister Rogers Neighborhood emulate the experience of learning through play. Learning through play is mandatory for the overall healthy brain development in children. It provides hands-on opportunities to practice skills that are being taught through purposeful play experiences.
Play-based learning can be intentionally structured for optimal learning opportunities that encourage different levels of deeper learning. Common characteristics associated with play-based learning should include:
- Active role in the learning environment.
- Actively engaged in play.
- Meaningful information process.
- Learners are interacting in the social framework.
- Meaningful connections are being made.
- The learning environment is mentally active.
Play is crucial to the learning and development of children. It benefits the development of social, language, numeracy, and reasoning skills; play is a great motivator for learning. Every object accessible in the learning environment should have a purpose that adds to learning that is taking place. It should also assist in scaffolding information across all of the normal learning areas.
Intentional play allows the learning environment or classroom, to become the teacher that the student can learn from, and the teacher becomes the facilitator for this experience. Rich engaging daily experiences and opportunities allow children to learn through exploring the world around them.
Intentional Play Experiences
Intentional play experiences purposefully structure play-based learning opportunities to encourage different types of play, including creative play. It also incorporates materials that emphasize development and learning, to the appropriate benchmarks, evaluates through anecdotal notes, photo assessments, portfolios, and learning stories, and is a high-leverage practice.
Examples You Can Implement
All types of play experiences and opportunities provided for children should be child-led and open-ended. Some examples include:
- Sensory Play- activities that stimulate the child’s 5 senses: touch, smell, taste, hearing, and sight. Examples include water and sand exploration, finger-painting.
- Cognitive Play- the process of building learning skills, including memory, attention, and thinking. Examples: blocks, puzzles.
- Pretend (Dramatic) Play- assigning and accepting roles, acting them out, dramatizing situations and experiences, imagining to be somewhere else and someone else. Example: dolls, dress-up, cars, and trucks.
- Manipulative Play- activities involving children to move, turn, screw, order objects to make them fit: achieving task or goal by moving or utilizing an object with hands or feet; promotes problem-solving skills. Examples are beading, puzzles, marbles, Legos.