Much has been made of the importance of play in early childhood.
Its benefits are countless: play is essential for healthy brain development. It helps children make sense of the complex world around them by mimicking adult roles. Through playing with others they hone their leadership skills, learn to resolve conflicts and how to advocate for themselves. Above all, play is exactly what children need to stretch their creativity and store up joy that is a cherished part of childhood.
A well-rounded playgroup in the best preschools in Singapore would encourage your child in both free play and crafted play.
How do these activities benefit your child’s development?
Unstructured play is common in playgroups in Singapore
All parents would be familiar with unstructured play, where children are given toys or other sources of stimulation and allowed free rein to make sense of them as they like.
This sort of play time helps children to develop their motor skills and figure out the mechanics of the world – how does a ball move when it is pushed? What is the best way to go down a slide? What happens when you stack too many blocks in a tower? Can I fit a square block into a round hole?
The value of such free play is invisible but essential to brain development. However, free play is very often understated or misunderstood by many playgroups in Singapore as simply leaving the children with noise-making toys or other types of self-limiting toys that leave no room for imaginative play.
The best preschools in Singapore recognise the value of proper unstructured play and provide children with open-ended toys (various types of building blocks, loose parts, etc) to give the kids leeway to explore on their own and create their own worlds by thinking out of the box.
Crafted play, a concept unique to the best preschools in Singapore
According to Ms Janice Lim, Deputy Director of Curriculum and Training (Early Childhood) at MindChamps, playgroup children learn best when their learning is pegged to sensorial and hands-on experiences, which is like play to them.
In that vein, crafted play is a MindChamps concept which gives the children latitude to figure things out on their own, but which directs them towards a specific learning outcome. For example, the children may role play buying snacks from their teachers, which teaches them numeracy (counting money), literacy (how to speak to the seller) and even social skills (being polite).
This kind of crafted play introduces children to new concepts and lifelong learning behaviours in a fun and engaging way.
Furthermore, in MindChamps PreSchool centres, teachers carefully observe the children’s interests and needs during free play, and then build experiential and experimental learning that fulfils these interests and needs.
Ms Lim says: “In this way, our preschoolers enjoy their learning as they are immersed in the process and become motivated to stay engaged for more learning.”
Exercise and movement as play
It might surprise you to know that exercising and moving is counted as playtime. When children clamber all over a playground, they strengthen their muscles and develop their gross motor skills. Whether they mimic a dance instructor’s moves or invent some of their own, they are honing their balance and coordination and using their imagination to boot.
One of MindChamps PreSchool’s signature enrichment programmes is NeuroMooves™, a programme that engages children with exciting coordinated cross-lateral movements, which notably help to activate both brain hemispheres and promote ease of learning.
This is particularly enjoyable for the toddlers in playgroup – they roll over, walk in straight lines, jump between hula hoops, and balance bean bags on their heads. While the kids are having the time of their lives, learning goals are subtly incorporated into the exercises.
Play is clearly vital to the development of playgroup children and should be a key consideration when parents pick out the best preschool in Singapore for their kids.
Written by JoBeth Williams