What are the benefits of play-based learning?

The sun was shining signifying another beautiful day at Camden Avenue/Father Lennon Park. Being the first day of PlayCorps, neighborhood children wandered into the park unsure of what to expect. Noticing loose parts and unconventional objects scattered around, the children came up with a plan: orchestrating an all-out PlayWar. The idea, entirely from the minds of the children, was that each ball-like object could be used to tag others in the park. Once tagged 6 times, whether adult or child, that individual was sent to ‘jail’. One can only imagine what unorthodox and fun materials they used to construct the ‘jail’.

 A neighborhood child participating at Camden Avenue/Father Lennon Park

Play is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “recreational activity; especially:  the spontaneous activity of children”. Learning is defined as, “modification of a behavioral tendency by experience”. Play-based learning combines these two by allowing children to learn through experience and activity. The benefits of play-based learning are impressive and proven to work.

1. Social and emotional development

Allowing children to make social interactions with other children they are able to learn vital social skills. Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH and Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD both studied these developments at an early age and concluded that by allowing children to engage in free play “young children can routinely observe and learn from others' emotions and experiences.”

2.   Self-awareness and confidence

Expressing oneself is extremely important for a child to start doing at a young age. Children who have the option to choose what subjects they want to learn more about and be themselves promotes confidence. Say a child who normal struggles with math, but loves natural science can choose to capture and identify different bugs. The child can be confident with different types of bugs and teach other children about them: building confidence.

3. Imagination and creativity are sparked

Providing children with raw tools such as cardboard, tape, or even nature itself allows kids to explore their imagination. When kids are told to create, whatever comes to their mind rather than set instructions it opens many doors creatively in the way they think.

4.Increase in physical fitness and well-being

Unlike other learning modalities where sitting in a chair for hours on end is the norm, play-based learning allows children to run around and engage in physical activity. Increasing incidental physical activity is paramount to improving a child’s holistic well-being. As the intensity of physical activity increases blood flow to the brain does so in a commensurate fashion. This increase in blood flow can lead to heightened retentive abilities, healthier brain development, and a number of other positive outcomes. Physical activity is typically perceived as monotonous and uneventful, leading to low adherence rates. When the line between play and exercise blurs, this is no longer an issue.

5. Light at the end of the tunnel

Cultivating a creative, confident, and optimistic mindset serves children well during development. Play-based learning is not only a wonderful cultivator of all three, but it remains a fun way to brighten the day of all those involved. And in the end, isn’t that just as important?

Christakis, Erika, and Nicholas Christakis. "Want To Get Your Kids Into College? Let Them Play." Cnn.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
"Definition Of LEARNING." Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
"Definition Of PLAY." Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
NANDI, ANISHA. "Junkyard Or Playground Paradise? Kids Making Their Own Adventures." Cbsnews.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.

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