Why Playing is Learning

When children play, they’re not only amusing themselves. They’re also learning valuable skills that will be with them for the rest of their lives, even if it might not look obvious to adults. Here are just some of the tools that playing will teach your preschooler.

Play teaches language skills

Recent studies have shown that “preschoolers use complex mental-state verbs such as say, talk, tell, write, and explain when they are engaged in make-believe play.” You can encourage your child to develop her vocabulary when playing with you by asking questions such as, “Is the dinosaur hungry? What is it eating?” Playing with her peers is another way for your preschooler to learn new words, particularly if she is playing with children of different ages.

Play teaches social skills

Whether your child is playing with you or with other children, he is learning valuable social skills. Activities such as pretend play, sing-alongs, sensory tables, and free play encourage children to negotiate with each other, share, ask questions, problem-solve together, cooperate, and practice conversation.

When playing in social situations, your preschooler will be exposed to other children with their own unique personalities, opinions, thoughts, and behaviors. He’ll learn empathy and begin to understand his own personality relative to his peers. This knowledge is critical to success in both education and everyday life.

Play teaches fine and gross motor skills

When children play, they’re developing their fine and gross motor skills without even realizing it. Activities such as painting, stringing beads, and stacking blocks develop fine motor skills such as dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and balance. More active forms of play such as tag, dancing, and climbing strengthen gross motor skills by developing the larger muscles of the body.

Play teaches math skills

As we discussed before, we begin to develop math concepts in our earliest years. Being introduced to numbers, shapes, and patterns are all important building blocks for math skills that will be built upon in later life.

You can introduce math concepts to your preschooler by exposing her to basic shapes such as triangles and circles, encouraging pattern creation, and playing counting games. For example, having your child pour sand into differently-sized buckets can teach her about volume, sizes, and numbers. Jigsaw puzzles and counting songs such as “Ten Little Monkeys” are other ideal ways to help preschoolers develop their budding math skills.

As parents, it is heartwarming to see children playing happily. But play is more than just a diversion for children; it is also how they learn to understand the world they live in, and test out different ways of thinking and acting in a controlled environment. Play is where children develop early language skills, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and math skills. Developing these skills in your child’s early years will help her succeed in later education, and in life.