How have you seen the benefits of play-based learning in your own children?
Play-based learning is a natural fit for our family. My children easily slip into pretend mode and everything becomes part of an imaginary story or game. When that happens, they become focused and motivated to achieve the outcomes of the fantastic story they have created. I have seen them use engineering skills to build something, or use trial and error to solve a problem. Sometimes they may role-play to work out social problems. On other occasions they might use creativity to set the scene for a game. There are times when they practice reading, writing, communication, and negotiation skills. They also emulate adult jobs, responsibilities, and actions as they play out the scripts of their imagination. I encourage and support play-based learning because I can see that my kids are benefiting from it.
If you could give one piece of advice to another parent who’s looking to incorporate more play-based learning into their lives, what would it be?
In my experience, there are two main parts of incorporating play-based learning with your children: First, let them be kids. Second, support the learning.
Let them be kids. In your busy life filled with school and organized activities and family commitments, make sure there is time for messy, unstructured play. During this time, your kids will naturally begin to use imagination to create and build and solve and pretend. They will become knights, dragons, chefs, princesses, warriors, or animals.
Support the learning. You can support the learning by providing props, materials, assistance, and suggestions to help their play come to life. For example, if your children are pretending to be firefighters, provide a cardboard box to use as a truck. When the kids are playing restaurant, give them paper and crayons to create menus. If they are building a stick fort, teach them to use some garden tools. When they are chefs, help them use measuring cups, spoons, and bowls. Ask questions and let them work out the answers. Join in the fun by becoming a pretend customer or student or neighbor.
Here's a quick personal example of the “Let them be kids - Support the learning” approach:
One time a few years ago I asked my kids to deliver some eggs to my Mom, who lives next door. My oldest daughter jumped up and stood at attention, announcing “Triple-A Delivery Service, ready for action!”. I gave her the eggs and she marched out the door, with little sister marching behind.
Soon they returned and announced, “Special delivery for Mommy Bossert!”. They handed me a note that said, “Love the new delivery service. Here is the bowl I borrowed yesterday. - Mom”. I got out some stationery and packing paper, and soon the Triple A delivery service was bringing envelopes and packages to every family member (and pet!) in each household. I took the opportunity to show my girls how to format a letter, properly address an envelope, and apply a stamp. They learned that a stamp shows that the cost of delivery has been paid for. They learned the fundamentals of how a delivery business would work. They practiced their writing skills. And for them, it was a fun afternoon of play and pretend that included the whole family. Now, years later, they still ask if we can play the delivery service game!