‘Play is the real work of childhood.’
– Fred Rogers, leading educator and television icon
So, what exactly is Play and what does it mean for your preschooler?
Play is a continuous process of trial and error. It is making and correcting mistakes in a fun and non-threatening environment. It is through play that a child learns to make sense of the world and create the solid foundations of creativity and future social and intellectual development.
Young children are ‘sensory-emotional’ learners. Their brains have not yet developed the complex neural networks required to process abstract concepts. They make connections (literally) through what they can touch, hear and see – and through how they feel, emotionally.
So, we shouldn’t try to teach Maths to a preschooler by memorizing equations or by flash-carding numbers (all abstract, and therefore ‘meaningless’ to a young child). We shouldn’t give them computer software or toys that promote a single ‘right’ answer. Rather, we design fun, ‘hands-on’ trial-and-error play activities which promote a ‘concrete understanding’ of basic number and quantity concepts and spatial skills.
This is what we, at MindChamps Early Learning, call Crafted Play™.
Types of play
Essentially, there are two types of play:
- Free Play – where children, while supervised, are left basically to their own devices, in a space which ideally has many sources of stimulation (toys, balls, blocks, drawing equipment, etc.) and physical activities (climbing frames, mats, slides, etc.), and learning is random and wide-ranging.
- Crafted Play™ – where the activities, while allowing the child the latitude to explore, experience, experiment and enjoy, are given just enough structure to lead towards a particular learning outcome (numeracy skills, language / literacy skills, social skills, or perhaps a new ‘understanding’), without removing the all-important ‘play’ elements.
Both forms of play are equally important and should be encouraged.
Crafted Play™ at MindChamps
At MindChamps Early Learning, we include Crafted Play™ in every key learning area, from literacy and numeracy to age-appropriate scientific concepts and even social/communication skills. Using our unique ‘Play-Stations’ (not the electronic kind!), we can introduce children to a range of experiences and life-long learning behaviours that the ‘drill and kill’ approach to teaching can never match.
Through Crafted Play™, our Champs develop essential skills, confidence and, above all, a positive emotional connection with learning. It is this deep and permanent connection that not only better prepares them for the rigours of future education, but teaches them that learning is fun and worthwhile – for life.
Written by Brian Caswell, Dean of Research & Programme Development at MindChamps