I was writing an article for a client yesterday about play-based learning. I am aware of this concept since Sasha’s school, Joyland Playschool Childcare and Learning Center, is an advocate of such. Play is a fundamental part of the school’s curriculum. Hubby and I couldn’t agree more that’s why we chose this school for Sasha (and for Adele too this coming school year).
We believe that play supports the development – physical, mental, emotional and social – of a child. It saddens me to read the move to push for early academics at the expense of play-based learning in the US and New Zealand. Why?
In the Philippines, the concept is not widely implemented. If at all, the adaption is concentrated on private schools. The truth is the country doesn’t have a proper early childhood program. This makes ‘learning through play’ such a foreign concept among public schools.
Ma. Lourdes de Vera-Mateo, Chief of Education of UNICEF Philippines, has good things to say about the promotion of play-based learning.
In enhancing the curriculum, schools create a stimulating learning environment for the children. It doesn’t only provide and promote positive learning experience, but also ignite the children’s natural curiosity while developing the sense of exploration and creativity among them. These two are treated as solid foundations in basic literacy and numeracy.
Through play, children were able to develop focus, learn group dynamics and share with others as well.
In other words, the eagerness to learn and love for learning may spring from allowing the kids to play. So if we want our children to learn, we need to provide an environment conducive to learning. It’s that simple.
Would it be nice to have preschool classrooms that look like this?
What play-based learning is
While there is no concrete definition of play when taken from pedagogical context, the concept of learning through play is easy to understand.
the method and practice of teaching
Whether free, structured or purposeful play, it refers to “a context for learning through which children organize and make sense of their social worlds, as they actively engage with people, objects and representations.” As defined by Early Years Learning Framework in its 2009 report.
Put simply, play is the language of the children. It’s the only currency they know of. It levels the playing field for them. They make sense of the world we live in through play.
Foundations of play-based learning
There are specific aspects unique to play-based learning. These are:
Play is a freely-chosen activity that engages the physical, verbal and mental development of the child. With the help of materials (props like toys) and the environment, the students themselves create a world with a meaning that is not often evident to the teachers. Play may not be goal-oriented or have an end in sight. Although it can be regarded as a reward, the teacher cannot force the child to engage in the activity.
Without the presence of these attributes, it can be counterproductive for the students. The same reason why even though free play is implemented inside the classroom, the presence of the teacher (as an observer) is still needed. After all, teachers are the planners, supporters and facilitators of learning.
One pitfall of play-based learning
Some plays may not be inclusive wherein some students tend to exclude other students from the circle. It’s a lose-lose situation for all the students involved. For those who are included, they may fail to imbibe the right learning. And for those who aren’t, the feelings of disconnectedness may lead to disengagement in learning.
Not only that. It may also lead to the failure to develop empathy among students as well as other foundational factors such as self-confidence, curiosity, cooperation, persistence and concentration.
This is where the role of the teacher becomes more relevant. She needs to interfere to correct the dispositions of the kids before play-based learning turns into an awful experience for all the students.
There is an interplay between play and learning. With this in mind, play must also be encouraged at home. Learning needs must not only be met in school, but more particularly at home. Busy moms need not supervise their kids’ playtime all the time although it would be okay to observe from afar and butt in whenever necessary.
There it is. Let kids be kids! Let them play!