A mother is the first teacher of a child and a child’s first exploration of the world is through play. It is through play that a child develops their motor skills, and sensory skills which build their imagination and creativity.
Play is an integral part of every individual’s childhood. We could all agree that playing makes a million connections in the brain, creating just the right stimuli for brain development.
It greatly influences the way a child develops their cognitive, social, physical, and emotional well-being. Some parents and teachers heavily rely on play to build a healthy behavioural patterns among children. One can impart discipline, ethics, sportsmanship, social skills, and other numerous life skills through play. These are skills that come in handy and need to be constantly put to use at every stage of life.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is the foundational building block that helps unlock the full potential of a growing child. These early years define a child’s future. That said, to ensure a positive impact on a child and their future, it is important to create a healthy, joyful playing experience for them.
We often associate play with numerous motor benefits but little do we know, playing greatly influences learning capabilities among children. It has a direct impact on a child’s intellectual abilities. A case study from the University of Arkansas proved that children who were regularly offered toys had a higher IQ compared to children who weren’t.
National Curriculum Framework for Foundational stages (NCFFS 2022) places ‘play,’ at the core of the conceptual, operational, and transactional approaches to curriculum organisation, pedagogy, time and content organisation, and the overall experience of the child. NCFFS-2022 states that children are natural learners. They are active, eager to learn and respond with interest in new things.
They have an innate sense of curiosity – they wonder, question, explore, try out, and discover to make sense of the world. By acting on their curiosity, they continue to discover and learn more. Hence the curriculum should provide opportunities to learn through play and hands-on experiences through physical and digital aids, making learning an active and interactive process. This can effectively help create real-world learning experiences for children.
It is imperative to note that ‘Play’ is not just restricted to early years of learning; did you know that play has just as many benefits for older children, teens and even adults? There is more and more research showing the value of adding play to learning for older children and adults. The over-emphasis on learning to achieve goals has increased the stress associated with education and taken the joy out of learning. Introducing play as an element of learning for older students can activate their natural instincts for learning and exploration, leading to better and faster neural connections and facilitating the assimilation of new concepts.
In line with the NCF, I emphasise ‘Play’ being the core of the education system for grades across the K-12 spectrum. This could make for a major shift in the perspective a child may have about going to school or education in general.
Further, the benefits of play extend beyond the confines of the classroom; when play becomes a part of the family routine it has transformative benefits for both children and adults (parents and grandparents) equally. Such intergenerational Play brings together people of all ages in mutually beneficial learning experiences. It also provides an opportunity for young students to have an authentic audience and build stronger social relationships.
Teacher training and developing learning material accessible across all grades are going to be the need of the hour. Thankfully, we will see a transformation in the previously set learning patterns and the conventional route will slowly start to fade.
Let’s commit ourselves as parents and educators to put the joy back into learning, by making ‘Play’ the centre of the education process.
The author of this article is Director of Education, Square Panda India.
(Tracy Cardoz is a passionate educationist with over 20 + years of experience in varied facets of school education. She is dedicated to delivering high-quality educational programmes through expertly designed curricula and innovative technology solutions. She has been instrumental in designing a host of learning solutions, including educational programs and digital learning solutions for ECCE systems like Anganwadis and Balwadis, K-12 programs for private schools, School Transformation Programs for Government Schools, Blended learning programs for teacher training, School Quality Assessment system, and digital learning content for government schools in Africa.)