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Learning Through Play Psychology and Theories

When it comes to child development, the learning through play theory is very important. There are several psychological studies which have confirmed the relationship between play and learning for children.

Playing outdoors gives kids the chance to explore and take in the world around them. This has lots of physical and cognitive benefits during early years and later on.

Learning Through Play Theorists

There are a few well-known theorists in this field including Piaget and Vygotsky. They have researched the links between learning and play and the significance for children’s development.

Piaget’s main theory was that play should encourage further psychological development as children mature. Playing outside can incorporate all areas of learning and help kids to become more aware of their environment.

There are a number of skill areas that can be built upon through outdoor activities, some of these include:

  • Cognitive development
  • Social skills
  • Emotional maturity
  • Self-confidence
  • Problem-solving
  • Kindness and sharing
  • Organisation

So many games and activities can focus on these different aspects to give pupils a well-rounded experience.

Types of Play to Encourage Learning

There are a few different types of play that help young children learn a variety of skills. Below are two of the most popular styles, both of these have their own benefits. It’s important for schools and nurseries to offer a range of activities that promote different areas of development.

During play children can develop a number of skills including socialising with others and problem-solving.

Child-Led Activities

With child-led play, the children are completely independent in deciding what they want to do. This leads to a whole range of possibilities where kids can use their imaginations to explore their environment during early childhood. This often includes pretending play and role-playing activities.

With this, children use playground equipment and toys however they like and create their own games. It’s a crucial part of early development which gives kids the freedom to learn and have fun however they want. Check out our post on Anti Bullying Week 2019 for more ideas on creating a positive playground for children.

Playing outside particularly helps speed up brain maturity, so it’s great to offer plenty of options for kids. There are many playground design ideas you could look at, including climbing equipment, surface markings and more.

Guided Play

Another style of play often delivered in schools are guided activities. This involves teachers providing a particular game or topic to target certain objectives. These could be number games, word games or memory activities. Children can be left to engage in the activity, but with specific prompts from their teacher.

The guided playstyle focuses more on certain areas of education to ensure pupils are developing all the skills they need. It should still be fun and keep children engaged while taking part in the activities.

Children are naturally curious and want to explore the world around them. All different types of activities help to spark this curiosity and contribute to increased knowledge.

The Three Main Play Theories

When it comes to different theories regarding the benefits of play, these can be split into three main points:

  • Classical Theory – This focuses on burning excess energy by doing physical activity.
  • Modern Theories – These look at how play can impact a child’s development through taking an active role in different games.
  • Contemporary Theories – This is focused on the relationship between play and daily life, incorporating social and cultural knowledge into playground games.

These different theories help us to understand the different benefits of play for children, particularly in the early years. Plenty of research has been done which highlights the importance of playing outside for cognitive, physical and emotional development.

Experiences like this are a key part of the school curriculum. They help children to understand the world and gain valuable knowledge to take into the future.

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