Though the idea of play may be regarded as simply a recreational activity, it is actually beneficial for children to play and explore ideas rather than solely memorize and study concepts. Implementing play into the process of learning can help improve cognitive function as well as understanding, and in an educational environment, play can also improve a child’s interpersonal relationships. Below are a few specific ways play-based learning can benefit a child.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of play-based learning is that a program that prioritizes play creates a space that allows for imagination and creativity that is not otherwise found in most educational environments. For many children, their form of play stems from events they have witnessed, and play allows them to recreate and participate in similar situations. They grow by experiencing and interacting. Imagination is believed to stem from an understanding of objects, actions, and meanings; providing opportunities for recreation and exploration can allow children to engage their imagination, foster creativity, and better understand their relationship to the world around them.
A regulated educational environment may promote order, but it also detracts from organic interactions between children. Engaging them in play-based learning can help foster communication skills as well as empathy; allowing children to experience the thoughts and behaviors of others in a controlled environment allows them to understand the importance of diversity and patience, which are things that arguably cannot be taught in a traditional way.
Play-based programs also allow for a productive process of problem solving. Children are encouraged to use their words to understand issues and address them accordingly, and the act of sharing and negotiating come naturally from play. Not only that, but children must use teamwork to accomplish goals and solve problems that otherwise would be troublesome. The elements of cooperation and interconnectedness are what make play-based learning integral to the development of social and collective skills.
Guided dramatic scenarios (that is, acting out scenes with props and characters) can help promote an increased capacity for literacy. By creating multi-faceted roles (like playing both Father and Teacher), using imaginative props, and introducing conflicts that must be solved through verbal means, play can encourage the integration of new vocabulary as well as an advanced understanding of conversational language. Rather than simply lecturing children on reading, writing, and other literacy skills, encouraging play that utilizes communication as a means of collaboration and problem solving can help children become more literate in both written and oral communication.
The benefits of play-based learning extend beyond academics. Rather than focus only on subjects like mathematics and literature, play-based learning encourages the development of life skills, communication, and the application of information learned outside of play. Implementing play as a method of teaching or as a supplement to traditional methods can help children develop the tools they need to be healthy, functional individuals.