Play-based learning

Good article in the Glob and Spew this morning described play-based learning and its benefits for young children.

Essentially, this is a progressive approach to learning that posits that children will learn life tools and skills more happily and readily if presented to them as a part of their “play”, and they will be retained longer and integrated deeper. It also argues that these types of tools and skills are very bit as important as numeracy and literacy. One of these skills is called self-regulation – the ability to control your instinctive reaction to a situation, contemplate your next action and then act in a manner that is socially acceptable and beneficial to you in the long run.

About 40 years ago, researchers at Stanford University developed of way of testing aspects of self-regulation through something called the Marshmallow Test. A group of 4-year-olds were left alone in a room with a marshmallow, and instructed that if they managed not too eat the fluffy treat they’d be given a second one at the end of their wait. About 30 per cent of the kids were able to resist 15 or more minutes of temptation, and held out for a second marshmallow. The researchers followed up with the children as teenagers and adults, and found that those who were able to control their impulses were better adjusted as high school students, scored hundreds of points higher on their SATs, were less likely to be overweight or have drug problems.

These adaptive skills are critical, and as a parent of three children – all of whom attended an institutional daycare at one time of another – I have seen this for myself. By and large, through the approaches taken by their daycares – as well as at home – they have all learned valuable adaptive social skills that have or are paying dividends. And they learned them eagerly because it was fun! I have never been a “flash card” kind of parent and hold that it is more important to discover those hidden social and self-learning skills through playing and exploring as it is to be able to count to 20 by the time they are 18 months old.

Some parents will strongly disagree with this approach.

Even we as adults will absorb knowledge and acquire skills more readily if it is an enjoyable experience. Who among us didn’t have at least one course in our scholastic or professional lives where, after the conclusion of the course, we scratched our head while thinking “good topic, but I would have gotten much more from it if it was presented in a better way…”

“There is a long history of understanding that children learn through play, but one of the things that has tended to happen, it comes particularly from the United States … is this push to do things sooner, harder, to shove academics down to younger and younger children,” said Marilyn Chapman, an early learning expert at the University of British Columbia and lead writer of B.C.’s new kindergarten program.

The reason the American approach doesn’t work? If children are pushed to read, for example, they might learn at an earlier age but research suggests they’re also more likely to become disinterested in reading by the age of eight.

“At the end of the day they don’t like reading and writing and then they don’t want to do it unless they’re forced to; what’s the point?” asked Prof. Chapman.

Exactly. Sure, learning can be forced down their proverbial throats, but are they going to retain it?

Play-based learning is a central pillar of Ontario’s new full day kindergarten program. Good daycares have been doing this for years and now that Boards of Education are assuming the functions of the 3.8 years and older educators, they would do well to speak to these daycares to find out what works and does not work. They will learn much.

(722)

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments so far.

Leave a Reply

*