Monday, 24 April 2017

Why play is a serious activity for a young child

Why play is a serious activity for a young child

Ever wonder why young children are always playing? It’s not uncommon to see parents at home and teachers at school restricting play time for the kids because children seem to play endlessly. Throwing and breaking things, creating a mess and non-stop noise may seem chaotic and irritating to adults but, young children are actually working hard while playing. It may seem obvious to an adult, but motion, sounds and space are some aspects that children understand with good old playtime. Research regarding the importance of play is quite clear, but most kindergartens and preschools are leaning towards structured learning. Making children acquainted with reading and writing skills as early as possible seems to be the norm.

Play can be a precursor for advanced academic abilities

Children are naturally curious and motivated. A preschooler or a primary school student can learn much better with play by inventing stories, indulging in pretend play, solo or with other children. Some children become quite adept at more complex socio-dramatic play which helps fuel their creativity and imagination even further. There have been studies that have indicated that 10 year olds who were made to learn phonics, alphabets and numbers didn’t do quite as well in Math and reading skills than ones who simply played more at kindergarten. Countries like Germany, Japan and Finland are examples of how more play based early learning and delayed stress on reading and writing skills reaps richer rewards in advanced learning abilities at later stages. Children from Finland especially, have been consistently doing well in the international PISA exam; a country where first graders are 7 years old instead of 6 years.

IB world schools, a departure from traditional learning centres

The International Baccalaureate curriculum can be considered one of the most relevant school programmes today. Not only is it not affiliated with any particular country, it packs in what students need to learn in school, how much and with what aids. The curriculum is designed in a way that gives guidelines and schools are allowed to customize it as long as the basic principles and minimum conditions of IB are met. The IB curriculum is reputed to produce students who achieve personal development goals along with academic excellence. Its universal acceptance is it’s another aspect that attracts students from all over the world.

IB authorised world schools have more opportunities and freedom to include play in their teaching programmes unlike traditional schools. Learning through curiosity rather than through rote learning is one of the cornerstones of IB education. With early learners in preschools and kindergartens, the IB PYP (Primary Years Programme) allows more fluid learning experiences.

The Canadian International School, Singapore is one such progressive school that has embraced the IB programme and places key emphasis on play based approach to learning. The dedicated ODC (Outdoor Discovery Centre) provides a much needed natural open space for children to indulge in free play or other outdoor activities and games.

Striking a healthy balance of academics and play is the key to a successful teaching programmes at schools. Learning while at play is a well understood philosophy however the right mix of reading and writing skills with unstructured play time can be crucial at kindergarten and preschool levels.  A classroom that is rich in play but still with some adult supervision and guidance, can prove to be most productive. Child initiated activities in a safe environment are breeding grounds for immense learning and understanding for young kids. Schools can do well by adopting more play-based activities and make it a serious business as it deserves to be.

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