Learning through interactive play

September 18

Learning through Interactive Play

Early years educators often point out the value of learning through play, especially exploratory play. In fact, whole educational styles are developed with this in mind such as Montessori and Steiner models etc. Play, put simply, means to use something in a certain way that creates a process of enjoyment, so that could be the exploratory play by yourself or play with others. 

The aspect of play development I am interested in promoting, is interactive play.  When children play with others, especially a key adult who is focusing on their interactive style to adjust and support them (see previous Salad Days article on Adult-Child Interaction), they are given opportunities to watch and imitate, thereby learning new words and play sequences.  

The best play situations are when the toys or objects involved lend themselves to a variety of ways of playing.  Whilst children’s toys for toddlers often have sets of colours, shapes and numbers etc. which can be very helpful for learning those early concepts, it is often everyday objects which lend themselves to imagination and discovery.  

Some great ways to encourage speech and language development through play are: pretend play i.e. tea party (even if you haven’t got toy cutlery - use what you can find), turn-taking games such as throwing a ball or bean bag, bubbles, chasing and sensory play such as cooking, water and sand play or arts and crafts.  These activities involve some basic vocabulary which you can explore together in a meaningful way such as nouns (tea, ball) verbs (squish, catch) and adjectives (big, cold).  

Exploring new ideas and concepts, in an interactive activity, create powerful learning opportunities, and the more we enjoy ourselves the better our brains are able to remember them for next time!



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