WHAT DOES LEARNING THROUGH PLAY REALLY MEAN?
As parents we all want to do our best for our children. We want our children to have access to opportunities that will help them to grow, learn and develop, preparing them for adulthood. Knowing our children will be entering an increasingly competitive workplace, parents are now scheduling a wealth of planned activities for them each week. The focus of these activities often ends up being the development of specific skills and knowledge from an earlier and earlier age. As a result, there is often little opportunity for children to benefit from time to play.
Play engages children’s bodies, minds and emotions. Play is recognised as so important to a child’s well-being and development that the right to play is set down in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). At KIS we follow the United Kingdom’s Early Years Foundation Stage Framework in which play is a fundamental component of our curriculum for 3 to 5 year olds.
An increasing amount of academic research confirms that play is an essential part of education. Young children are not passive learners, they learn through hands-on activities. We know that children are highly motivated to learn when they are able to actively drive their own learning and development. This is demonstrated in the choices they make, the interests they develop, what questions they ask and what knowledge they seek. Even from a very young age, children’s choices and interests are the catalyst for building their knowledge, skills and understanding.
WHAT DO CHILDREN LEARN WHEN PLAYING?
- Language skills
- How to think about and solve problems
- Risk taking
- Emotional development
- Creativity and imagination
- Social skills
- Intellectual skills
Recent research suggests that the top skills employers will be looking for in the future are Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Creativity. Through providing structured play activities in an educational environment, we are supporting the development of these crucial skills from the very start.
HOW DOES PLAYING HELP LEARNING?
In the Early Years Foundation Stage at KIS we teach our youngest students through a mix of planned, purposeful, play activities and adult led lessons.
With our purpose built outdoor learning area and our well resourced classrooms, children explore and discover the world around them. They are encouraged to practice new skills, interact with others, use their imagination and consolidate knowledge and understanding.
The progress and development children make when learning through play is greatly enhanced when combined with interaction in particular ways by skilled adults. At KIS our highly qualified and experienced teaching teams support and extend the play activities to meet the crucial developmental needs of individual children. Through their observations, assessment and professional judgement they gain vital information on how each child learns best. Activities and lessons are then carefully planned based on the knowledge of each child’s stage of development at a given time and progress is measured and reported. Parents are able to monitor their child’s progress and development in their Learning Journey Portfolio via the Tapestry Online Portal, where teachers and parents are able to access and upload evidence of significant moments or achievements, samples of work or supporting photographs.
BALANCING PLAY AND INSTRUCTION
In reality, while we want our children to be creative and good problem solvers, we also want them to be knowledgeable about facts and details. This requires a balance between play and instruction. While children need to know that 2 + 2 = 4, they also need to be able to understand why that is the case and apply that knowledge across a range of situations. At KIS we combine play and direct instruction in our teaching methods. As children grow older, and their development allows, children enjoy more teacher led sessions, to help them prepare for more formal learning in Year 1.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework provides balance, quality and consistency in academic development, pastoral care and creativity for children aged 3 to 5.
The areas of learning that are developed are:
- Communication and language
- Physical development
- Personal, social and emotional development
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
Regardless of whether a child is receiving direct instruction or engaging in structured play, a fun and enjoyable activity is the best context for learning. Dull, repetitive activities are not effective in developing a love of learning in children. Students at KIS come into the school each day keen to learn, they look forward to the varied activities that have been planned for them and see school as an enjoyable and fun place to be. Such positive experiences and memories, combined with experiencing success, developing resilience and demonstrating a willingness to learn are crucial in becoming successful lifelong learners.