As a society, we can often write off “playtime” as unimportant, or find ourselves thinking of education and play as two completely separate things. But for young children, play is a vital part of learning and development — providing a safe space for ideas to be expressed, creativity to flow, social skills to flourish, and problem-solving to be developed.
That’s why it is so important that children are allowed the opportunity to learn through play at home, especially at a difficult time like now when other social stimulations such as playdates or preschool are not an option. But how exactly can you help to educate your children through play as a parent?
To be honest, you’re probably doing it already. Lots of different types of play — whether it’s solitary play, play with siblings or a parent, pretend-play, or guided play — can teach children all sorts of valuable skills and lessons.
In the post below, we’ll be going over some of the great ways that you can encourage learning and educate children through play. Read on to find out more:
1. Encourage Creativity And Experimenting With Crafting
Planning some crafting activities is a great way to educate your children through guided play. You might wonder what your kids can learn from making greeting cards or pasta necklaces — after all, crafts with preschoolers tend to just be a lot of glitter and mess, right?!
Well, wrong. Arts and crafts activities can teach all sorts of useful, modern skills to little ones, whether it’s social skills such as sharing and communicating ideas, or critical thinking and problem-solving to work around a mistake.
Creative play like arts and crafts also give kids a chance to explore their ideas and express themselves creatively — allowing them a safe space to test stuff out without fear of judgment or repercussions. That’s how kids learn how to make mistakes, build up confidence, and establish their own identity with personal likes and dislikes — all incredibly important things to learn.
Of course, it can be hard to come up with a constant stream of crafting ideas without repeating yourself, so if you’re stuck for ideas, then you can always look at monthly subscription boxes for kids like the Sago Mini Box. Boxes like this are specifically designed for learning through play and child-led discovery — packed with make-and-play craft activities that kids will love.
2. Teach Them About Science & Nature In The Backyard
Playing in your backyard is the perfect way for preschoolers to learn while still having plenty of fun. Whatever the weather, small kids love being outdoors and exploring — especially at a time where we’re all a little cooped up and feeling restless.
Getting out in your garden is the ideal opportunity to blow those cobwebs away and introduce some interactive, touchy-feely fun activities, where your little person can learn all about local wildlife, plants, and weather. There are tons of fun and educational activities you can put on in your backyard, so it really depends on how brave (or squeamish) you are as a parent!
For example, creepy crawlies can be found everywhere, so why not have a sort of bug hunt around your backyard? How many different bugs can you find in the backyard together? Introducing your preschooler to minibeasts at a young age will help them to learn more about the natural world — including different bugs and their habitats under rocks or plants — as well as improving their vocabulary. You could ask them to describe the bugs they find, or even draw some of their favorite creepy crawlies once you’re back inside.
If bugs aren’t really your style, you could do some “gardening” together (of course, keeping it suitable for small children). You could try some weeding, or dish out watering cans for kids to water flower beds, or just have some fun digging holes together in the dirt!
3. Practice Problem-Solving & Teamwork Through Den-Building
Kids love dens; it’s a fact. And giving your children the opportunity to make their own den — whether it’s in the living room, garden, or garage — provides plenty of opportunities to practice problem-solving and teamwork!
Building a den is a super easy and exciting way for kids to learn through play. Think about the skills it develops: your child has to get creative and think logically to sort out things like the structure of their den and fix problems. How will it stay up? And what if something keeps falling down? What will they use as an access point or door?
Den-making may not seem like education to the untrained eye, but actually your child is testing out and applying all sorts of mathematical and engineering skills to work around problems.
It’s not just critical thinking that den-building encourages, either. Den-making with siblings (or you!) helps kids to work on their teamwork and cooperative skills as they work with someone else to construct their perfect den. Plus, they have to communicate their own thoughts and ideas to other people for this teamwork to work out properly! This can help with all sorts of things, like communication and language development.
As a parent, there are a few ways you can get involved and guide den-play. You can suggest appropriate materials and tools, such as old sheets, clothes pegs, and cardboard boxes. Or you could input some helpful suggestions and your own den-building tricks.
However, the important thing is to let your kids take the lead. This is their opportunity to make their own decisions, explore their own ideas and creativity, and boost their confidence.
4. Teach Them About Fun Food And Textures In The Kitchen
Whether you’re cooking dinner, baking a cake together, or carrying out daily chores like washing the dishes, you can have a lot of fun in the kitchen with your kids — plus, it’s a great way for parents to educate through play.
Encouraging your child to take a more active role in the kitchen will get them excited about food (especially if they get to make decisions!), more enthusiastic about trying out new dishes and flavors, and help them to become more comfortable with household chores (which is a handy skill to teach before they become terrible teenagers!).
There are all sorts of fun recipes you can try out with kids and make together, such as cookies or cupcakes, or pizzas and fajitas. Let your children choose a recipe or idea that they’re excited about — it will boost their confidence and help them to feel like they’re valued.
Whatever you choose, your kids will really see the benefits: smaller children like toddlers will have multi-sensory fun though touching, tasting, and smelling new ingredients and different foods. And older children will be able to practice their weighing and counting skills as you measure out ingredients together, as well as learning to follow a recipe.
It doesn’t just have to be cooking either; you could also involve your little ones in mealtime prep by giving them small tasks like washing vegetables in the sink or chopping fruit. While they’re doing that, you can talk about where these ingredients have come from — it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the food on our plates!
There are so many ways that you can educate your children through play as a parent. Try to strike a balance of providing kids with activities and ideas for guided play, as well as letting them loose with their own imaginations for pretend play; it’s healthy to have a mix, and all types of play will teach your children valuable skills. Most of all, remember to have fun!