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Learning Through Play: A guide for parents

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

How Can Parents Encourage Learning Through Play?

It may seem simple but learning through play is profound. A child's ability to make sense of the world is enhanced through play, which aids their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Scientists and psychologists have examined the importance of play for over a century.

An in-depth study of children's cognitive development was first conducted by Jean Piaget (1962). Play was considered essential to children's development of intelligence by Piaget. As the child matures, his theory of play suggests their environment and play should promote further cognitive and linguistic development.

Through the eyes of a young child, playing and learning are one in the same. During the pre-school years, children learn everything through play.

Play exhibits the following characteristics:

  • It is an intrinsically motivated and spontaneous activity

  • Processes are emphasized rather than products

  • Imagination drives play as if it were "real"

  • It is largely free of external rules

  • It is purely for enjoyment

Play helps children understand the world and how it works while reflecting on their understanding of reality. During play, children are thinking, developing memory, problem-solving, concentrating, investigating, planning, and developing language skills.

Observing how our children learn is interesting for us as parents. Seeing our child figure out something new is exciting and fascinating.  Every day is a new adventure for young children. Although watching your child learn from the world around them is very rewarding, as a parent, it is useful to know how you can accelerate their learning through play.

Observe your child’s play

By watching your child play, you will be able to see how he or she is developing in terms of motor skills, language skills, and intellectual abilities. Play can give you a glimpse of how your children see the world and others around them. Watch how your child deals with frustration and reaches a resolution. Consider how significant this will be in the future.

Parent encouraging child to learn through play using a yellow A4 Wedge Jotter magnetic, dry erase whiteboad at home learning.
Child learning through play using a Wedge Jotter Whiteboard.

Let your child play without you 

Children should sometimes be allowed to play alone. Let your child choose activities he or she finds enjoyable. In this way, your child will gain independence and self-direction by making their own decisions about how and what to play. You do not need to give up your parental role by allowing your child to make all decisions. Instead, encourage your child's independence through safe and developmentally appropriate choices. For example, drawing a picture of a purple frog, whilst may seem unrealistic to an adult, is a significant way for children to express themselves creatively and independently. The Wedge Jotters are fantastic Whiteboard Solutions that can easily be incorporated into play-based learning activities.  Initially, children gain pleasure from the physical activity of mark-making, but as they grow, they find that they can control their marks and their creativity flourishes.   

Play with your child

Playing with your child is one of the best ways to get to know them. If you really want to know your child, you must play with them. Attachment, security, and connectedness are all developed through the play between parents and their children. It is important that you spend time with your child. If your child wants you to be involved in their play, don't be shy about getting stuck in. After all, play may be the primary means of communication for your child.

Let your child lead

When your child wants you to play with them, think of yourself as a partner, not as a leader. You should listen to your child's instructions and be aware if your child doesn't want you around. Let your child lead. Observe how your child feels and reinforce his or her efforts to try something challenging. Make sure your child has the support they need.

Provide opportunities for free play Your child should have as much free play time as possible each week. Examples of free play include -

  • Mark-making, drawing, colouring, painting, cutting and gluing

  • Playing make-believe & dress-up

  • Playing on the playground, climbing, swinging, running around

  • Reading and looking at books

Look to provide a wide selection of resources such as the Wedge Jotter and generic play items to enhance creativity and opportunities for play.

Give room to play

Provide a dedicated and appropriate space for your child to play. Provide a space for them to move freely, make a mess, be loud, laugh or be quiet. Children can better understand boundaries and limits when they are given a range of space to work within.

Turn off the Tech

Relying on technological forms of entertainment is all too easy these days. Look to block out days where you turn off the tech and suggest alternative activities such as building a den, drawing, playing a board game, or putting on a play. Join in with your child, and get the whole family involved, this is the perfect time to make memories. The purpose of these activities is primarily to enable children to choose how they wish to play and to be creative whilst doing so.

Play helps children explore the world around them, imagine alternative solutions, solve problems individually or collaboratively, learn how to negotiate, learn how to express themselves, and develop creativity. The importance of play in learning is evident from the earliest stages of development right up to school-age children. 


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