It’s natural for parents to want their children to achieve academic success. But in this desire to help their kids succeed in school, many parents make the mistake of separating play and learning. They associate learning with acquiring new skills and memorizing things, while they put playing in the “free-time box.”
One of the biggest minds ever, Albert Einstein, said that “play is the highest form of research.” And he was right! Children are more likely to adopt new knowledge and skills when they are having fun. Plus, they’ll show less resistance to studying if they can enjoy the process. Here’s how kids learn by having fun.
Stimulating Early Brain Development
Even if there is no intention to learn something through play, playing promotes early brain development in little ones. The experiences acquired through play and research set healthy grounds for brain growth. Sensory play creates experiences that help produce brain cell connections (synapses). Also, the cerebral cortex (which is associated with higher cognitive processing) benefits from these fun activities that we, as adults, often underestimate.
Kids too can face stressful situations in their lives, and we’re not talking about the tantrums of toddlers when you won’t buy them a toy. They can sense an uneasy atmosphere in their home when their parents are anxious, and they can be nervous about exams.
There are many ways to help kids relieve exam stress (or any other kind of stress, for that matter), but play must be one of the top five. Games are not only a welcome distraction but also a way to approach learning less seriously. That way, kids can focus on adopting new knowledge instead of the outcome.
Developing Problem-Solving Skills
A mathematical task is a problem that requires a solution. Likewise, many of the assignments in schools are problems that need to be solved. Children use play and logic to make discoveries. It starts from the simplest things, such as pushing a button and making their musical toy play accidentally, and then realizing that they can do that on purpose. Playing with toys or using their imagination to create new amazing worlds contributes to cognitive development. Consequently, it also makes their academic victories that much closer.
Children are explorers by their very nature. The fact that they came into a world where everything is new to them makes them naturally curious. However, over time, this curiosity can wane and give into the practical aspects of growing up.
Play makes kids forever curious, which rewards them with a constant hunger for new knowledge. And who knows, maybe by researching new ideas and experiences, they can even find the answer to the centuries-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Helping Kids Process Their Emotions
The way children handle their emotions certainly impacts the way they act at school, the way they react to success and failure, and their academic success in general.
In the beginning, all the emotions (and there is a wide range of them) are new to kids. They don’t know how to deal with them, and they don’t know how to express them. Fun activities such as play help them learn these things. For example, when a child loses a game, they need to find a way to process anger and disappointment. When they win, they need to learn to respect the one who lost and celebrate their victories with dignity.
Children rarely get to make their own decisions, even when it comes to the simplest things like their school outfits. Play allows them to participate in something valuable and to practice decision-making. It also makes them feel the consequences of their decisions – both the good and the bad ones. It makes them feel more independent and free to make their own choices. This helps with building confidence, which is essential for later education as well as their social life.
Play Is Important for Social Relationships
And speaking of their social life – a healthy social life definitely impacts a child’s education. Academic performance can largely depend on how well children integrate into their classes and the activities they have outside of school.
By playing, even alone, children can practice valuable social skills. For example, we’ve mentioned the ability to lose and win with dignity, and that’s immensely important for functioning in society. Also, even when they are playing with dolls and imagining some wonderful worlds, children can practice empathy and conversation.
While it’s important to sit and do homework, kids can make the most valuable experiences through play. There is no school material that will replace the benefits of playing, whether it’s alone, with parents, or with peers). Play is how kids truly get to know themselves and the world around them.