Importance of a Playful Approach in Early Childhood Education

September 2, 2022

You start singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in a different language, and you see your Champ dancing along to the same choreography as they would have when the English version is sung to them. While many Champion Parents naturally find pride in such small successes, the association between these learnt behaviours nurtured through playtime and knowledge acquisition is rarely made. Although the importance of play in child development is widely known, most tend to associate learning with gaining new skills such as the ability to accurately count from one to ten or recall all the letters of the alphabet. However, those are just subsets of a child’s learning.

Play is how children thrive, and according to both theory and research, playing is indeed learning. A baby delightfully scrunching up a piece of paper may seem mundane, but it is a form of playful exploration that provides an opportunity for the little one to use their innate skills and pursue their natural curiosity. Over time, these modes of playfulness build skills and aptitudes required for your child to succeed in life. As such, the power of play in early childhood education should be seriously considered.

The Five Characteristics of Play in Early Childhood Education

From cooperative play to independent play, there are different types of play that facilitate early childhood development. Even though each of these genres of play actively engage your child’s mind in varying ways and the definition of play can be subjective, there are five key characteristics of learning through play in early childhood education. These include:

1. Voluntary and Involved

Play should be spontaneous and self-chosen. This means that your child should have the freedom to change, alter and manipulate everything from the purpose of their play to the location at will. When your child takes charge of their play, they not only get to make choices but also take charge of how they experience the world around them. This autonomy makes a world of a difference in their learning as the exposure to the unknown develops their flexibility in thinking and adaptability in decision-making. However, this does not mean that parents should sit out and leave everything up to their child. Guidance and active involvement without blatant instruction are pivotal in supporting them through their early childhood education.

2. Actively Engaging and Meaningful

When your child engages in active play, their body and mind are used to the fullest to interact optimally with their immediate surroundings. Be it through pretend play or adventurous outdoor experiences that nurture their creativity, these types of engaging play involve the exploration of the unknown and exposure to new concepts. And when done within the confines of a safety net established by you or their educators, they will be able to build upon their current knowledge. Processing all the sounds and sights around them will grow their knowledge, help them make sense of their world and nurture important skills, all of which are crucial to set up a robust foundation for later learning beyond their kindergarten years. This adds meaning to seemingly simple fun activities for kindergarten and preschool Champs.

3. Joyful and Motivating

Play has to be pleasurable and your Champ has to find joy in the activity. Moreover, play must be intrinsically motivating. That is to say that engaging in play should be done simply for satisfaction and not for an extrinsically motivated goal. While play does encourage learning and development, playtime sessions should not function as a test preparation. This means putting the belief that flashcards and educational toys are the only path to success on the back-burner when playing. Through these fun and joyful experiences, Champs are bound to associate playing with positive emotions and tackle novel problems that crop up with a positive attitude and creativity.

4. Socially Interactive 

From an early age, play is the main way we relate to the world and with each other – the same applies to your Champs. Independent play may teach Champs how to be self-reliant and make their own decisions. However, the unique opportunity to interact and build relationships offered through play remains unrivalled. Through social play, skills of negotiation and cooperation are established. This educates Champs on ways to best navigate conflicts and how to deal with their own emotions.

5. Iterative 

Recollect the first time your Champ uttered the word “mama” or “papa”. Or perhaps, your Champ’s first steps. These words and actions were learned through repetition. When play is iterative, Champs learn how to try to solve challenges multiple times and figure out ways to approach the issue at hand in different ways.

Find Out How MindChamps Integrates Play into Our Curriculum

Play is simple but simultaneously profound. Take inspiration from our S.M.I.L.E.S™ Methodology at MindChamps. Fostering curiosity through fun activities for kindergarten Champs, a holistic learning experience is provided. With enrichment modules like Creativity and Theatrical Strategies™ and NeuroMooves™, we bring the fun to learning. For more information on how you can take a playful approach to early childhood education, enquire about our programmes or book a visit at any of our centres in Singapore today.