PLAY is the WAY children learn during the early childhood years. How fortunate that is for parents, caregivers and/or their teachers! Because when PLAY is the basis for learning activities it makes learning not only fun, but something that happens naturally. Plus, as an added bonus, it also creates a desire to continue to want to learn!
Focus on the Senses:
Provide as many opportunities for your kiddos to engage their senses—and if they use more than one for the same activity all the better! The traditional 5 senses:
plus the 6th sense
which involves movement and balance, are the means by which children rely as they build an understanding of objects, spaces, people and interactions. Our senses provide all of us—young and not-as-young—with needed information about the world around us.
In early childhood, all areas of development and all curriculum areas can be integrated into sensory-based learning activities.
Learning Activities Utilizing the Senses:
• At a light table (or with flashlight, wall and a few objects), children develop cognitively while experimenting with light and shadows using their sense of sight. This activity also gives them an introduction to that area of science, ie, physics, that delves into the properties of light.
• Employ their sense of hearing and offer musical instruments. Bells or rhythm sticks help children develop physically (ie, motor skills plus coordination), cognitively (experiencing the cause & effect of striking the bells or sticks together resulting in louder or softer tones (dynamics) AND, if done with other children, socially, learning to cooperate. Additionally, their impulse control skills are improved when children use instruments to accompany a song and/or fingerplay as they must wait until the correct time to join, developing them emotionally.
• Another easy way for children to engage their senses is when they experience Mother Nature. Being outdoors–feeling the wind on their faces; smelling the fresh earth; seeing the variety of colors and textures; hearing wildlife chirp, buzz, or howl; and the freedom of moving–is a kaleidoscope of movement, smells, color, texture, movement, and sounds!
Focus on Relationships:
The healthy development of children depends on the quality of their relationships with the important people in their lives…their parents, caregivers–even teachers! Relationships help them understand:
• Who they are;
• What they can become;
• How they are important to others; and
• Why they matter to other people
These relationships show children they belong. Belonging—like food, air and water—is a primal,fundamental need. Stable, quality relationships are critical to children’s overall healthy development.
Relationships Impact Learning:
Because all growth (ie, learning) requires some form of risk, children must feel safe to risk–to venture into unknown territory, to try–without the fear of punishment or ridicule, but knowing they have a haven to return to. Here again, quality, stable relationships are key; they impact a child’s ability to learn.
Strengthen Your Parent-Child Relationship:
•Be responsive to your infant’s/young child’s needs
•Remember the song 4 Hugs A Day? Show and tell your kiddo’s you love them!
•Unplug when you’re together—be present. Nothing says “I’m not important” when the person you’re trying to talk to is engrossed in their phone…
•PLAY of course! Have fun–find humor in every day things; make up silly songs or jokes. Spend time outdoors together–it’s been shown to improve mood and decrease stress levels.
•READ to your kidlet! Make a routine of reading a story at bedtime. It’s a wonderful way to connect in a relaxed environment while strengthening your bonds to each other. Not sure what to do or what to read?
Check the Go PLAY Activity Cards. They take the guess work out with step-by-step plans that easy for you to follow.
Focus on Facilitating PLAY:
Mr Rogers believed, as I do, in the POWER of PLAY. He referred to PLAY as the “serious work of childhood.” SO TRUE!! IMHO, the majority of PLAY should be child-led and child-directed with the adults’ role as one of facilitator; providing the time, space, freedom and materials (this doesn’t mean a roomful of toys) for children to do their work…PLAY! Yes, of course, you will want to engage in PLAY at times–to have fun together, strengthen your relationship, build memories, but remember PLAY is the work of children!
Yours in Play!