The right to play is deemed so fundamental to children’s wellbeing, that it is enshrined by the UN as a universal children’s right. Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn. It underpins formal learning later in childhood, but also enables the individual child to develop their self-worth. It strengthens powers of concentration, essential for a successful future in the classroom, and underpins everything from learning social interactions and norms to the beginnings of scientific thinking.
Play is particularly important for the younger child. Preschool children, and those in Reception, learn through the EYFS National Curriculum, which is inherently play-based. It is the foundation of childhood development in terms of language, emotional intelligence and regulation, creativity, and intellectual reasoning.
What is Play?
Before we consider which activities are best for helping children to learn through play, let’s address: what is play?
The book ‘Einstein Never Used Flash Cards’ by Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, and Eyer, breaks play down into five core elements. Play must:
• Be fun and enjoyable
• Have no set goals
• Be spontaneous and voluntary
• Involve active engagement
• Involve an element of make-believe