The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education

Often when we think of learning activities for children, we primarily think of school and traditional school lessons. However, for very young children, playtime is also an important learning time. In fact, young children learn best through play. This is why play must be an integral part of childhood education. This quick guide will explore the benefits of play in childhood development and education.

Encourages Brain Development

Play can help children develop a better understanding of the world around them. Learning new skills through play lays a foundation for brain growth. When new skills are set in the context of playtime, a child’s brain can approach the task in a more relaxed way. When children are relaxed and engaged, their brains are better prepared to receive new information and make important connections. Research has also shown that neurons in the brains of babies and children are most active during play. Crucial brain cell connections can be made during this time.

Encourages Intelligence

A study by the University of Arkansas discovered that children who are given a wide variety of toys to play with regularly have high IQ levels. Interacting with toys and other children or adults through play also helps to develop a child’s social and communication skills.

Encourages Creativity

One of the most beneficial aspects of play that can be visibly seen, though, is how playtime will spark a child’s natural creativity. When children are in a comfortable, relaxed play context, their minds open up to new possibilities. This is when a child’s imagination can grow, and problem-solving skills can develop. Presenting children with toys and games that present soft problem-solving opportunities is a great way to increase their divergent thinking and build their confidence.

Free Vs Structured Play

There are two types of play for children in their early childhood. Both types hold significant benefits for brain, social, and creative development.

Free play is playtime overseen by an adult or caregiver but not planned out or structured at all. The child or children are allowed to interact with toys, equipment, or supplies in any way they like.

Structured playtime is playtime that has been planned by a caregiver or educator. This playtime will have a specific objective in mind. For instance, a caregiver may instruct the child or children to use the toy kitchen to work together to create a meal and serve it to other children. Or a caregiver may present a child with several colored blocks and encourage them to divide the blocks according to color, shape or size.

Both types of play are necessary for early childhood education and brain development. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to use both types of play on a regular basis with young children.