By Michael Hilkemeijer
This is an extract from my online pd for early childhood teachers titled "How to support play based learning in early childhood education with Digital Technology?" Become a member of Academy (60 + online PD for early childhood teachers) today for just $50 Aud per month (cancel anytime) to gain instant access to the course or enrol as a stand-alone course (10 hours PD) for $360 Aud.
Play-based learning is a valuable tool for early childhood education, helping children learn and practice foundational concepts in a fun and engaging way. By gaining an understanding of the principles of play-based learning and access to inspiring activities, you can create meaningful and enjoyable learning experiences for your students.
Understand the Basics of Play-Based Learning.
Play-based learning is a beneficial pedagogical approach that encourages children to learn through exploration, experimentation and creative play. It involves activities such as singing songs, making art projects, playing with puppets or putting on a skit — activities that are more informal and engaging to students than traditional "sit in your seat" lectures. With play-based learning, educators provide opportunities for children to build problem-solving skills and explore the world around them.
Offer Open-Ended Questions and Choices
Early childhood education is all about discovery and exploration, so presenting children with open-ended questions and allowing them to choose the direction of their learning can be a great way to help them practice problem-solving skills. Ask your students questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer, such as “what do you think would happen if…?” and let their curiosity take the lead!
Providing an array of materials and supplies to your students also helps to encourage creative, play-based learning. Rather than directions that lead to a single solution, try offering materials such as Legos, blocks, paints, and clay so they can practice problem solving while they engage in imaginative play. Choosing fun activities that allow children to explore various topics on their own will not only help them master new skills, but it will help foster an intrinsic love of learning in your classroom.
Make Time for Outdoor Learning Experiences
Learning doesn't have to be confined to the classroom — kids can experience many enriching learning experiences through meaningful outdoor play. Going on nature walks, gardening, building with blocks in the outdoors, and observing wildlife are just some of the ways you can help your students engage with play-based learning while in nature. Encourage your students to ask questions, explore their surroundings, and observe their environment during outdoor learning experiences.
When children are able to incorporate physical activity into play, it provides many learning opportunities. Use outdoor play-based experiences to teach your students about things such as animals and plants in their local environment. Allow them to dig, build and create while learning. Empowering each child to engage with their surroundings in creative ways through self-directed learning can help foster creativity and a sense of natural curiosity in your students. Inviting nature’s creatures into the classroom through educational books, documentaries, and hands-on activities can also be beneficial for science lessons as well as arts, math, literature and other subject areas. Encouragingchildren to use their imaginations during outdoor play allows for an enriching experience that is sure to get your children excited about learning!
Provide Creative Playtime Resources.
Engage your students' imaginations through creative playtime! Provide them with an abundance of age-appropriate resources like blocks, art supplies, paper and pencils, manipulative toys, and more. Invite them to turn mundane items into something fun — this will encourage their creativity and give them the opportunity to think outside the box. Counseling kits like those used in therapy can also provide a great outlet for imaginative play.
Always encourage your students to be creative during their playtime. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What can you make with these supplies?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Be sure to praise their creations, no matter how strange they may seem. Additionally, serve as an example of playful creativity yourself; initiate games and stories that allow them to express themselves safely while they develop important skills like socialization, resilience, and imagination. Play-based learning through creative activities is invaluable for early childhood education.