Play In Early Childhood
It cannot be underestimated how important play in early childhood is. An observant teacher or parent can use play to help children learn in a fun and meaningful early childhood learning environment. Much research has been undertaken and play is seen in western society as a way that children are able to make sense of their world. They are able to relive experiences, try new roles and become problem solvers while engaged in play.
Effective early childhood education values the role that play has in engaging and enhancing children's development. Many opportunities must be given for children to be involved in play that interests them. Think about the types of toys that children need to play. Often plastic fantastic toys are thought to provide the best but many low cost or free items will encourage children have meaningful play experiences. In fact toys may be the wrong focus for providing play experiences for children. Natural resources such as sticks, shells, leaves and stones can be used in many ways to help children learn maths concepts such as size, shape, comparisons, numbers, measurement, addition and subtraction to name a few. Science, arts, literacy, numeracy, technology and drama can all be included and involved during children's play.
Items that children are able to use in many ways can give new and exciting opportunities for play. Things such as cardboard boxes can be transformed into cars, houses, rocket ships and any number of items when put in the hands of children. Think about the learning that can be incorporated into any of the above creations and if child initiated and led, how much more engaged children will be.
Play can be used for providing significant information for assessment in early childhood education. Children display many dispositions and pieces of information about their understanding of the world during play. Using these to think about how to further extend children's working theories about the world will ensure that you are providing meaningful curriculum experiences.
Again we cannot stress strongly enough how real opportunities for children to engage in uninterrupted, meaningful and fun play in early childhood can lead to them making sense of the world. Their learning in these instances will be cemented more easily in their minds when it occurs in a play experience that they can control and lead. So our advice is to recognise and provide the time, resources and support for children to play!!!