Children learn best through play. It has taken us some time to finally realize what children have been trying to tell us for a while now. Toys are fun and colorful, but is play actually learning? Children have a natural ability to explore and interact with their environments whether there are toys in it or not. Have you ever had to pull a toddler away from the light outlet or redirect the precocious 3 year old away from sticking the end of their shoe lace into the sleeping dog’s ear. This is not because the child wants to be a nuisance. Children are natural explorers and they learn about the world around them through their interactions.
So what does these interactions look like in educational terms?
Approaches to Learning:
- Children will demonstrate interest and curiosity as they actively explore people, things in their environment. The child will demonstrate their unique learning style and preferred method for engaging in their play environment? When this area is at work, the child is at his best when the educator will allow them to explore and teach the teacher what they are interested in learning and how that should play out.
Cognitive & General Knowledge:
- Children will increasingly demonstrate skills such as spatial relationships, and cause and effect. Children learn to problem solve such as how to retrieve the ball that rolled under the table. This is also evident in a child’s ability to carry out multi step instructions as in putting your clothes away and then start your homework. Memory and recall of information also falls under this domain.
Language & Literacy:
- Children will increasingly demonstrate use of words for reciprocal communication with caregivers and peers. This begins with parents reading to the baby while still in the womb. Once the infant is born, making cooing sounds and speaking to your infant in conversational tones before they have developed language facilitates healthy language development. Providing print rich environments with labels on house and classroom items, as well as books that the child can ‘picture read’ to their stuffed animals is excellent for emergent reading.
Perceptual, Motor, & Physical Development:
- Children will build awareness of their bodies, increase gross and fine motor skills by navigating their environment. These skills are learned as children develop through skills such as reaching, rolling over, crawling, running, skipping, kicking, tossing, bending, and lifting. This domain also covers a child learning to balance and complete actions that cross their midline.
- Children will regulate emotions by establishing positive relationships with familiar and non familiar adults. For example, children adjusting to being left with a new care taker or teacher would be a familiar adult. A child remaining relaxed but moving closer to their teacher when another child’s parent enters the room is an example of unfamiliar adults. Learning to cooperate, take turns, positively express emotions involves social emotional development.
The Parent and The Educator’s Role:
The best learning activities will engage the child in each of the 5 learning domains inclusive in one activity. This is what we know to be developmentally appropriate. For example, if the child is in the Book Area, the child should not just engage in language development. There should also be social engagement with engaging with other friends in the same area, the physical development of holding the book and turning the pages, approaches to learning would cover how the child interacts to the events of the story or pictures and cognitive development of recall of story details, order sequence and counting items should all be taking place at once.
Tour your learning areas and review your learning activities and resources to determine how many learning domains each will cover as the child engages with it. Challenge your staff or environment set up to find creative ways to incorporate all 5 learning domains in each interaction.
Parents and Educators should engage in learning through exploration, however it is important to come into the child’s world instead of insisting they maintain yours. The rules and roles of play are determined by the child in that moment. Adults must not be afraid or feel awkward with immersing themselves in the pretend but very real world of the imaginative play of learning. Release the idea that a boat must always be used as a boat. A child may determine it is a telephone in the dramatic play area but it can also be a water squirter in the water table area. Just go along with the child and observe their approach to the type of learning they would like to engage in.
If you are interested in facilitating a training for your staff, creating assessment tools and observation checklists on the 5 Developmental Learning Domains, contact Miss Indrea’s Circle at bit.ly/contactmissindrea with your inquiries and availability to create learning resources for your education program.