Maybe you’ve heard the familiar Maria Montessori quote: “Play is the work of the child.” Advocates of play-based learning talk about the fundamental skills children develop through playing. But some may wonder if children can really learn what they need to be ready for Kindergarten through play-based learning.
The answer is a big, whole-hearted “YES!” Play is essential during childhood because it allows children to explore the world and get hands-on experiences that can help them understand larger concepts. Through play, children
Ask any play-based preschool educator what they see in the classroom daily, and you’ll likely hear an overwhelmingly positive assessment of play-based learning. This article will explore what play-based learning is, why it’s essential, and where to find a play-based Pre-K near you.
The dedicated educators at New Horizon’s Preschool and Learning Center understand the importance of play in the early years. We shape our curriculum to include lots of enriching, hands-on learning activities and create engaging play-based learning spaces that encourage children to explore the world around them. Contact our admissions team now to schedule a visit or to register your child for one of our programs.
Play-Based Learning: The Basics
There are many educational approaches used in pre-K classrooms across the country. Some academic-focused programs promise to teach kids essential Kindergarten readiness skills to prepare children for a lifetime of classroom learning. These programs often include memorization drills, worksheets, and a lot of time spent sitting at a desk.
While these types of programs may encourage kids to memorize letters, numbers, and facts, they do not acknowledge how young children learn best. Play-based learning has been proven to be much more beneficial to children between birth and five years old.
But what exactly happens in a play-based pre-K program? Some people may imagine a play-based preschool might be unstructured, with educators only providing supervision. Instead, play-based learning programs provide an enriching environment, carefully selected toys and activities, and educators who support children’s pursuits.
In a play-based pre-K program, children lead the learning. Their curiosity drives discussions, exploration, and activities. Teachers are connected to their students and adapt their curriculum to meet the kids’ changing interests and needs.
Essential Qualities of Play-Based Preschool Programs
Play-based learning and academic pre-K programs often operate on different ends of the educational spectrum. Academic-focused programs are often heavily weighted to a set curriculum that focuses on transferring knowledge and preparing for the rigors of formal education. Play-based learning encourages children’s curiosity and confidence while giving them an excellent foundation for the school years.
Here are some of the most essential qualities of a play-based pre-K program.
Play-based education focuses on where children are, both developmentally and emotionally. A typical play-based preschool day may offer multiple activities that children can engage in as they choose. For example, a child may spend some time playing in the kitchen and dress-up area, then move on to building with blocks, and then take a break with a book in the quiet time corner.
Teachers are essential in a play-based pre-K program because they provide enriching activities and maintain a healthy, engaging learning environment. They actively respond to children’s observations, facilitate open-ended conversations, and guide children through transitions or challenges.
Children in play-based pre-K programs develop better communication and social skills because they play and learn alongside peers. Kids must learn to collaborate, build and maintain friendships, and get along with others. They discover how to be assertive about their ideas while respecting others’ needs. When they arrive at Kindergarten, they’re confident in their ability to learn and make friends and often have less anxiety about the social aspects of going to school.
Children who can effectively regulate their emotions are more engaged learners, better leaders, and often have more opportunities throughout childhood and adolescence. Play-based learning supports children’s emotional development by fostering creativity, valuing respect and kindness, and giving kids practical tools to recognize and regulate their feelings.
Kids in play-based pre-K programs develop the empathy, patience, and resilience they’ll need throughout their education and life in general.
Although play is at the core of a play-based pre-K program, kids learn valuable practical skills, such as letters and letter sounds, numbers, and simple math. The difference between an academic and play-based preschool is that a play-based program incorporates academics into hands-on play.
For example, children in a play-based pre-K might learn letters and letter sounds by singing songs, dancing, or playing alphabet-based games. Children might also paint letters, trace them in shaving cream, shape them with play-dough, or create letter shapes with their bodies.
Instead of relying on memorization or teacher-led drills, children are actively engaged in what they’re learning–and they usually want to learn more!
Discover More About Play-Based Learning
Still curious about the benefits of play-based learning? Reach out to the passionate educators at New Horizons Preschool and Learning Center now with questions or to register for one of our incredible pre-K programs. Call today to get started!