My name is Ryanne from The Everyday Learning Space. I am a Primary School Educator now stay at home mum to two active and energetic boys. Our days are definitely eventful and wearing especially because the boys are so close in age but that doesn't prevent us from playing and learning, which go hand in hand.
Being a Primary School Educator and transitioning to a stay at home mum, I am continuously motivated to build opportunities for my boys to acquire and learn different things through play. This inspired our love for everyday learning activities in our home, a space that fosters creativity and imagination. I become super enthusiastic and passionate through discovering innovative ways to not only stimulate my children but also myself as it is a great way to disconnect from other things going on in our day to day.
In saying that, how does learning happen through play? What do we as parents expect from our children? Are we leaning towards a more structured or unstructured form of play? For me personally, as a teacher I was always leaning towards a more innovative approach to teaching. I enjoyed seeing my students be excited about a task or hands-on activity that I provided to them. All children are different and have their own style of understanding and learning. Some kids learn best through visual aids whilst others learn best through listening to a parent or teacher. Other children enjoy reading and writing about the concepts they are learning. However, another approach that we tend to overlook sometimes or not give enough repute too is the power of hands-on learning.
LEARNING BY DOING
When it comes to the education system, what I’ve noticed is that the pressure on children to “attain” higher levels of academic success is prevailing the joys of education and causing children to become worried or apprehensive at such a young age. This is why I want to foster an everyday space for my own children within our home that provides them with every opportunity to be curious, creative and imaginative.
Children are naturally curious from the time that they are born, they are intuitively wondering and exploring the world around them. So let's be the ones to cheer on that inquisitiveness and curiosity.
So again, I come back to my question in how does learning happen through play? Well it starts right here, with you, with our children and in your homes. The day-to-day communications and experiences you share with your children is how they learn about the world around them. There is a need for open-ended learning and resources that promote imagination as well as independence. Play has many forms and it is all around us. Learning through play enables children to take on an active role and ownership in their experiences as well as recognising and trusting them to be capable, independent and leaders of their own playful learning journeys.
When children choose to play, they are not thinking, “Now I am going to learn something from this activity”. However, play opportunities and environments that promote play, exploration and hands-on learning allow children to acquire critical skills. Whether it is creating magnificent designs with building blocks or magnetic tiles, telling stories, playing with cardboard scraps or exploring around with water or other sensory bases, play happens everyday and is rooted into your everyday routines.
In our “everyday learning space” our home, I like to display and keep resources out that may be of interest to my little ones. This way, my boys have access to open-ended resources all the time and can independently choose whether they want to play with something or not. They are then able to decide if they are interested in that particular toy or resource and utilise it in their own way.
I then look at the resources or toys that they have taken a real interest in and create engaging invitations to learn. These invitations are simple and easy to set up. For example, my 2-year-old son is absolutely obsessed with the Connetix magnetic tiles. He loves this open-ended toy and self-sufficiently uses it in a variety of ways. One week I decided to use those magnetic tiles in combination with magnetic letters on the garage door outside. He was singing the alphabet a lot that week and we were learning about them more. A more engaging approach to just presenting young ones with the Alphabet. We took the learning outside for a matching up activity. It was vibrant, colourful and super exciting for my toddler. He had a BLAST learning about the Alphabet using one of his favourite toys in an outdoor setting.
Learning through play happened right there.
Other hands on learning ideas that showcase how learning happens through play is just utilising everyday bits and pieces you have lying around the house. Children will play with anything and be happy with it, it doesn't have to be decorative or look too fancy. My son has an interest in matching up objects or sorting out things so I used his interests and turned it into an engaging invitation to learn by using recycled toilet rolls. He loves shapes so when I noticed he took a liking to an empty Kmart mug holder we had, I asked him if we should add some shapes to the “branches”. We called it a “shape tree” and used cut up toilet rolls to shape match. Apply your little ones ideas and interests to extend on that to create new experiences for them.
When children initiate play, they are more driven to learn and develop positive outlooks towards learning. In our home, our everyday learning space I love to interact with and observe my children to gain insights into their own interests, skills and knowledge because what might work for us might not work for you. Learning happens through play by being an active member in your child’s everyday, by modifying spaces and aspects of their learning to suit their individual needs.
Play is learning
Play is expressive
Play is welcoming
Play is actively engaging
Play is interactive
Play is creative
Play is open-ended