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Why play is our brain's favourite way of learning

What is it that inspires children to learn? While there are many theories out there, experts are in agreement that play is, unquestionably, one of the most important factors.


You’ll have probably heard many a person quote “learning through play”, and we know that play is an important tool that children use to make sense of the world around them. To help us understand just how important it is, let’s consider five year old Albert Einstein… as a child, he was poorly in bed when his dad handed him a magnetic pocket compass. Fascinated by this ‘toy’, Einstein started twisting and turning it, determined to trick the needle into pointing any way but north. Of course, he didn’t succeed here, but playing with the compass did leave a long and lasting impression on young Albert. In fact, it was these actions that inspired his interest in and love of science.


The key to learning


It’s no secret that play is important to learning, but many do not realise just how powerful it is. In study after study, researchers and educators have found that play can not only enrich learning, it can help develop key skills such as enquiry, expression, experimentation, and teamwork.


It’s for this reason, of course, that so many schools advocate learning through play, and why role play centres such as Petite Street Playtown are growing in popularity. When they are having fun, children learn more quickly, and they do it without even realising they are, in fact, learning.


How play helps children learn


Learning should be fun, especially for young children. There are many skills that can be developed through the power of play, and different play things and methods can encourage the development of different skills:


  • Playing with sand, water, coloured rice, or jelly can help children understand the differences between liquids and solids, as well as how different substances can be measured using containers.

  • Creativity, imagination, and expression can be encouraged through the use of play dough, drawing, painting, dressing up, and role play.

  • Building blocks, jigsaws, and shape sorters are fantastic tools to help children recognise different shapes, and develop logic.

  • Playing with other children helps develop a child’s understanding of taking turns, sharing, and interacting with different people.

  • Rhythm, listening, and hearing skills can be enhanced through singing, and playing simple musical instruments.

  • Climbing, dancing, running, and playing catch are fantastic ways to develop balance, coordination, and body movement.

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