Why Use Play-Based Learning Activities
Learning through play builds connections in children’s brains and helps them to learn faster and more effectively. Research points to the importance of play-based learning activities for both brain development and learning in preschool and beyond.
Keep reading to learn about playful learning and how you can implement it in your own preschool classroom.
What is Learning Through Play?
Play becomes a tool for preschoolers to learn while having fun. There are many different types of play-based learning activities that can be done in school and at home.
Playful learning is engaging, active, meaningful, and involves a social aspect too. When students learn through playful experiences, they interact with the world around them in important ways.
Some Benefits of Play-Based Learning
- Develops social and emotional skills- Play-based learning encourages children to collaborate, think creatively, share ideas, and solve problems together. This builds strong social and emotional skills that will benefit them throughout life.
- Allows Creative Exploration- Through playful learning, children are given the opportunity to explore their unique interests and discover new activities and ideas. This encourages creativity and helps children develop their own individual interests and passions.
- Enhances Language Development- Playful learning activities help young children learn language by using it in fun contexts as they explore and interact with their friends. Developing expressive language will aid them with more traditional academic tasks like writing in the future.
5 Tips for Planning Playful Learning Activities
1. Create an environment that encourages exploration – Make sure the materials in your classroom are designed with open-ended exploration in mind. This will allow children to use their imaginations and engage in meaningful activities.
2. Structure activities based on interest – Structure activities around the interests of the children, rather than simply assigning tasks at random. This will ensure that each child is interested, eager, and engaged.
3. Encourage collaboration – In play-based learning, teachers should encourage collaboration and problem solving. Group projects are a great way to promote playful learning.
4. Start small – Rather than attempting to incorporate all aspects of play-based learning into your curriculum at once, start by introducing one or two elements at a time and build from there as you get more comfortable with it.
5. Allow flexibility – Keep an eye out for unexpected opportunities during class time, allowing yourself the flexibility to adapt activities as needed if something interesting arises organically.
Fun Play Based Learning Activities for Preschool
There are several playful learning activities preschool teachers can incorporate into the school day. Here are our favorite activities for play we encourage you to try too!
Loose Parts Play
Loose parts play is when students can use a variety of “loose part materials” to get creative and investigate different objects. There are small loose parts such as buttons, rocks, beads, and more.
There are also larger loose parts play such as boxes and milk jugs. You never know what students will turn loose parts into, so this type of play promotes creativity and engineering skills.
Sensory bins are a great way for students to play together and work on fine motor skills too. You can rotate different bins based on the theme you are teaching.
For example, if you are teaching about animals on the farm, you can create a farm sensory bin made of dry corn kernels, dirt, scoops, farm animals, and small bowls.
Students love to scoop, pour measure, and sort in sensory bins. Our favorite sensory bin fillers are kinetic sand, colored rice, dyed chickpeas, and plastic beads.
Not only is playdough fun and engaging for students, but it is also a great way to develop fine motor skills. Students can use playdough to make everything from letters and shapes to monsters and flowers.
Add in tools like rolling pins, dough scissors, and cookie cutters and the possibilities for play-based learning are endless.
Dramatic play is our favorite time for students to explore and use their imagination. In our classroom we have 10 different dramatic play bins that we add to the kitchen area (one per month). Students get to explore a florist box, a doctor kit, a post office set, construction bin, ice cream shop, and more.
They get so excited to see the changes month after month and become more creative with each new bin!
More Fun Ways to Learn Through Play
Blocks provide a great opportunity for play-based learning. I like to provide several different types of blocks including magnet blocks, wooden unit blocks, foam blocks, and Legos.
Be sure to provide plenty of accessories as well. Cars, road signs, wooden people, and animals make block play even better.
For children who are struggling with what to build, consider providing some picture cards of various structures they could attempt to build–like the Eiffel Tower, a castle, or even a racetrack.
Have a classroom concert where children are allowed to pick a favorite song or brain break to lead the class in. Pass out instruments like maracas, cymbals, and bells for children to create their own musical masterpieces.
Have you ever given students long silky scarves or bean bags during music time? These are another way to be sure this play-based learning activity is extra fun and allows for maximum creativity and expression.
Arts and Crafts
Crafts are play-based only when they are open-ended, meaning you don’t expect children to produce something based on a teacher model. Let them have free reign to explore art materials like paint, washi tape, fabric scraps, glue, tempera paint markers, and different types of paper.
Encourage them to take their time and be creative. Have them dictate a sentence to describe their work and display it in the classroom so they can be extra proud of their creativity.
Will You Give Play-Based Learning a Try?
Play-based learning provides children with opportunities to explore, create and problem-solve in a fun and meaningful way. By using play-based activities in the classroom, preschool teachers can foster children’s development in key areas such as language, physical motor and social-emotional skills.
Through the use of playful learning activities, teachers can help children build confidence and discover the joy of learning!