Encouraging More Play-Based Learning

Learning Ecosystems and Leadership June 26, 2017

“Play is the highest form of research.”   Albert Einstein

Early childhood education (ECE) is a new and growing field of study and research in Qatar. However, there is a growing body of literature and research that demonstrates that both the quantity and quality of care and interaction that a child has in the early years has a significant benefit throughout children’s life right up to adulthood. These benefits range from improved linguistic, cognitive, and socio-emotional development, to higher school enrollment rates, lower repetition rates and better school achievement. Over the past decade many countries have increased their focus on ECE. Some countries even made the education for lower ages compulsory. There are many kindergartens and preschools around the world that mostly focus on providing child caring services rather than education, yet at present, as Dr. David Whitebread highlight it, there is an “aspirational stretch” between the optimistic vision of the high quality ECE provision that is hoped to be achieved globally and the current reality.

Play is a healthy and essential part of childhood. It is essential to child development as it allows children to use their creative skills while developing their imagination and physical, cognitive and emotional strengths. Countries are focusing on achieving high quality in ECE in their societies through developing curricula that are rich in play-based learning and designed around children’s interests and life experiences. The play-based curriculum supports children’s physical, emotional, and social cognitive development which is determined by the professional body of educators for obtaining relevant, meaningful learning and developmentally appropriate practice for children.

Before children learn how to read, write, and do mathematics, they play! Play is children’s natural way of exploring the world. When children are playing, they are motivated and they are developing many skills while having fun. There are many different types of play activities that children involve themselves in, which allow them to have a richer learning experience.

It is important for us as educators and parents to understand how the process of play is beneficial for child development, so that we know where we can step in and help them in their “Play-based learning process”. We must take on different roles and co-operate with the children in their play when it is needed. Guiding them using our communication is the best way to enhance these playful learning experiences and children will continue being enthusiastic, persistent and confident.

Social-dramatic play, also known as pretend play gets children involved in their learning. They use all their acquired skills to confidently involve themselves in pretend play with other children. They learn how to effectively communicate with others through this type of play. This is important for their development because they are building a foundation of leadership and negotiation skills for teamwork. Every play activity that your child involves themselves in has a purpose!

Parents are their child’s first teacher. Therefore, in order to deliver the most effective learning for children, it is important for school and home to come together and work collaboratively and productively. If parents understand what schools are doing and how teachers are facilitating children’s learning through playing, if they understand the school’s methods and strategies for teaching then they should be able to use the same methods and strategies at home and deliver learning effectively.

As a new parent who has recently been acquainted with play-based learning, I found it a little hard to understand the concept. Yet I am grateful for the formal and informal platform that the Early Education Center in Qatar Foundation provided parents. It allowed me to learn more about their program and my son’s specific needs and interests in order to help him at home.

Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury for children – it is necessary for them to explore, engage and connect with the world in which we live. Let the children play: they are learning!