At Cotlands we use a model called playful learning which are based on best practice and years of research.
“Playful learning”, as conceptualised by Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk and Singer results in children learning more and having better academic outcomes. Playful learning methodology guides our early learning facilitators, to actively scaffold or guide a child’s play, as opposed to direct instruction.
Playful learning activities are freely chosen by the child according to the child’s interest which results in the child deciding how long the play will last and what will happen next. Furthermore playful learning is hands-on, age appropriate, challenging and involves interaction amongst children. Independent research confirmed that structured environments that include playful learning help children learn the most.
Smith and Pellegrini provide useful guidelines that can be used to facilitate playful learning for young children:
- prioritise enough time for play that ranges from unstructured free play to playful learning;
- create safe spaces that allows for a range of play opportunities;
- change play spaces as required;
- provide adequate and accessible play materials and toys;
- design a programme that includes time for child-initiated as well as adult-directed playful learning activities;
- model acceptable behaviour, language and social skills to children;
- scaffold children’s learning by guiding and showing children the next step;
- empower children through allowing decision making;
- encourage and praise children;
- allow time for children to play which involves exploring, learning by doing, trying something;
- engage in rich conversations with children during play.
Ultimately facilitator should understand how they impact children’s development. Playful learning is only possible if the child is involved, wants to participate and enjoys the interaction. Children are ready and eager to learn, children learn best through play, children need environments that provide playful learning opportunities. Setting up a toy library provides such an environment.
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Relational Child & Youth Care Practice is published quarterly