Early Childhood Education: 10 Tips for Supporting Your Child's Learning through Play-Based Activities
How to Help Your Child Learn While Having Fun
We are so busy and often see play as the way to keep our kids busy while we do all the things that need to get done (laundry, cooking, working, etc.). But play is a really powerful tool that we shouldn’t take for granted. Play is a fun activity that children choose to do because it makes them have a good time. Of course, we can use play as an “entertainer” for our kids but we should be aware of what happens during play so we can use that opportunity to not only keep our kids busy but also to help them develop skills and learn all at the same time. They only get one childhood, and it is up to us that they don’t waste it.
Using Play-Based Learning to Spark Curiosity
Every child is different, they all develop skills at different times. Even if we have twins and raise them at the same time, they will still develop skills differently. It is very important that we respect their own timing and support their journey so they can successfully get there whenever they are ready. Children are like sponges: they absorb everything that happens around them, and they are always learning. By providing the right tools and experiences we will maximize their learning and development to their highest potential. So many things can influence and affect the way children learn, but how can we support their journey in the most effective way?
Top Parenting Tips for Nurturing Early Childhood Education Through Play & More
Follow their interests.
Using Your Child's Natural Curiosity to Develop Skills
Every child likes different things and feel attracted to different items and activities. You can learn a lot about your child just through observation and listening to the questions they ask, the items that grab their attention, and the actions they repeat. This will allow you to gather ideas and provide more activities similar to what they like (if they love moving, you can create an indoor obstacle course, if they like dinosaurs you could create a little play scene with dinosaurs and pasta shapes for them to explore and develop fine motor skills and communication as they play.)
Discover their needs.
Using Play as a Tool to Improve Necessary Life Skills
Needs are different from interests, but if you link a need with an interest, you will be providing a fantastic learning opportunity. Needs are things that children struggle with in their daily life (need to improve some necessary skills that help them become more independent, like eating with a fork, putting on their shoes, asking things nicely, and regulating emotions…). We can discover what our kids’ needs are through observation and also by talking to their teachers or with themselves. It is through their daily life that we can see what they struggle with. Play is a great opportunity for them to practice those skills while having fun so they can improve and apply what they learn to their daily tasks (dressing up a teddy, feeding a doll, or catching bubbles to regulate their big feelings).
Keep things simple.
Providing Fewer Toys and Less Overwhelming Options
The amount of toys and activities we provide to our children can be overwhelming for them but also for us. If they have too many choices, they will struggle to pick one and they will end up making a mess and walking away saying they are bored and you will feel frustrated. Have you ever looked at your wardrobe full of clothes and thought “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR…”. Well, it is the same for your children. Keeping things simple, having fewer toys to choose from, and involving them in the process of decision-making when deciding what to do and how to set up an activity can be really beneficial and take a lot of pressure off your plate too.
Allow space for creativity and individuality.
Encouraging Your Child's Individuality and Self-Esteem
Things don’t always need to be done our way. Our way is not necessarily the best way or a perfect one. Even if it was, allowing your child to make their own decisions and come up with their own ideas can be quite tricky (especially if it is really obvious to you that it can be done in an easier way or it could have a better outcome), but it is necessary for them in order to develop their own personality and to discover their skills, talents, limits, and self-esteem. We are here to guide them, not to do things for them. We can help by not helping, just encouraging, and supporting instead. That is the best gift you can give to your child: CONFIDENCE. Creative children will become adults that are resilient, think outside the box, come up with new ideas and adapt easily to changes in life.
Choose the right tools.
Educational Toys for Maximum Learning and Development
Children will play with whatever they find in front of them, whether it is a phone or a cardboard box. There are lots of different types of toys for lots of different types of play. Choosing the right toys and having them available to our children will guarantee that the kids will be learning no matter what they decide to do with those toys. Buying educational toys will support your child’s education and they won’t just be having fun while playing, but also learning and developing skills at the same time. Best toys for kids: construction, art supplies, playdough, pretend play (kitchen, dolls, etc.).
Find the right balance
Providing Play Experiences While Letting Your Child Get Bored
Finding the balance between providing experiences and letting them get bored is the key. Children feel bored when they are in a situation where they must think in order to come up with something to do that’s fun enough for them or when they are doing something they don’t want to do. The more play experiences we provide for them when they are young, the more ideas they will internalize so they can get more creative when they feel bored, and this will allow them to find things to do by themselves whenever they need to. Even when they are doing something “boring”, they will be able to turn it into a game and get it done quicker.
Embrace mistakes and failure.
How to Help Your Child Learn Through Trial and Error
There is no success without failure, there is no learning without mistakes. The more mistakes they make, the more they will be learning. We can protect them from dangerous situations or help when we are in a rush or under pressure, but try to always find the time, as much as possible, to allow them to figure things out by themselves, even if this involves making a mistake and trying again and again until they succeed. Once they achieve the results they want, they will feel proud and happy, and that will boost their self-esteem as they become more resilient. For example, if they are trying to zip up their jacket and they are struggling, jumping in, and helping out is sending the message “I will do it because you can’t”. Instead, try to give them guidance and instructions on how to do it by themselves and, if you need to go, say something like “you are doing great and trying really hard, how about I finish it this time, and we can try again later because you are about to get it!!”.
Say yes to the mess.
The Importance of Messy Play for Children's Learning and Development
Messy play is a necessity for children. Children learn the basics of science through messy play, how the world works, how things combine and mix, how far they can spread the paint, they learn about gravity, about cause-effect, about properties of materials, about solid and liquid, about sinking and floating, and so much more. Messy play includes lots of sensory activities like water, sand, rice, paint, etc, which help children regulate emotions and communicate through play and art.
Outdoor play for the win.
The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children's Health and Wellbeing
Our bodies are designed to move, not to sit still at any age. Indoor movement is limited by the walls and by all the items inside the house. Children need to go outside on a daily basis. They need to walk, run, jump, climb, explore, and fall… they need to get fresh air and learn about the outdoor world by interacting with it. It is also very important to create a healthy relationship with nature and their environment from a very young age so they feel like they need to look after our planet, and this can be easily learned through play. Activities like nature treasure hunts, observing leaves changing colours, creating pictures with rocks and sticks on the ground, etc can be so much fun and also so simple and cost-free!
Keep electronic devices for emergencies.
Limiting Screen Time is Essential for Children's Development
It is not a secret that electronic devices are taking over our children’s playtime more and more these days. The problem is not the time spent on those devices, the real issue here is the time taken away from playing, exploring, interacting, communicating, and learning. When kids are immersed in their tablets or phones, they are not being present, they are not thinking, not moving, not making mistakes. Therefore, there is no learning, and this means it is time wasted. The long-term consequences will be poor social skills, lack of communication, underdeveloped speech, low self-esteem, lack of confidence… is that what you want for your child? Keep the tablets for emergencies (to keep them awake in the car on a late drive home, or on a long flight, for example, but not during dinner or just at random times).
Unlocking Your Child's Potential
Embracing Imperfect Parenting
Tips for Navigating the Early Childhood Education Challenges - Conclusion
Parenting is the most difficult task we will ever have to do, there is no doubt about it. There is no perfect parenting that is for sure because there are so many ways of doing things and each of them is valid if it comes from a good place. We love our children and always try to make the best decisions for them, and that is what perfect means. As long as we try our best, that is what we are doing: the best. The more information we have about their development and their needs, the more informed our decisions will be and the better the outcome. They also need to see and learn that life is not easy so if we make a mistake, it is definitely not the end of the world. Be kind to yourself and mind your own needs and interests too so you can look after them the way they deserve.
Written by Mireia Lopez – Discovery Playtime
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