When you walk into any high-quality preschool, you should see a variety of toys and activities -- from a play kitchen to blocks and art supplies to dress-up gear. While not all preschools are specifically "play-based," many rely on the benefits of play not only as class activities but also as valuable teaching tools. Play-based preschools offer specific benefits that can help your child develop social skills, work on his language and even learn problem solving, all while playing with his peers.
Play allows your child to interact with others and learn about specific social skills. When your child engages with another child, they both learn how to share, cooperate and solve problems together, something that could be missed in a strictly academic setting. Your child also learns how his behavior affects others: when he takes a toy away or won't share, he gets a negative reaction, as opposed to the positive reaction he can come to expect from sharing and cooperating.
When your child is allowed to play during preschool time, he's able to learn and grow on his own terms. Wiggly preschoolers might have a difficult time sitting through a lesson on letters, but playing a singalong game with those same letters captures your preschooler's interest. This could result in better retention and a more developed love for education and school. When preschool is enjoyable and interesting, your little one will be more excited about going there regularly.
According to a report by the Center for Early Childhood Education, children who engage in play-based learning often develop more mature language skills. That's because kids at play typically use more adult language while carrying out more adult roles, such as playing house with another child. Children at play also tend to create longer strings of communication, which could also account for the increase in language development.
When children are invited to play with each other or enjoy open-ended play with blocks, magnets and imaginative toys, they learn new problem-solving skills. Play offers a hands-on way for kids to manipulate toys, collaborate and utilize their senses for skills that translate from preschool into the real world. Cooperative play also gives your child an opportunity to recognize the emotional responses of others and react accordingly. Learning new strategies for play and cooperation gives your child the confidence he needs to eventually transition into the "real world" of kindergarten ahead.
- PBS Parents: Comparing Preschool Philosophies: Play-Based vs. Academic
- The Center for Early Childhood Education: Science in Support of Play, The Case for Play-Based Preschool Programs
- Early Childhood Education Journal: Play in the Preschool Classroom, Its Socioemotional Significance and the Teacher’s Role in Play
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