Gone are the days when children learnt only through textbooks and chalkboards, with a teacher dictating new information to them in a unidimensional lecture format. Today, both schools and homes are now designed to encourage play-based learning for young children. Millennial parents have become consciously more aware of the benefits of games and play in the development of their toddlers as well.
Let us first understand the importance of play-based learning for children, where activities for kids involve fun games and experiential learning. When learning happens through play, it builds on the child’s innate ability of curiosity, exploration and creativity. While open-ended and unstructured play is also an excellent form of learning, consciously designed purposeful games and activities help with holistic development during the early years of a child.
The four key aspects of a child’s development are cognitive development, physical development, socio-emotional development and language development. Play-based learning engages the child in a way, where all these four aspects benefit significantly.
Games and play boost a child’s imagination and build memory, along with helping them learn about the various concepts of the world around them. For example, when a child is playing with multiple objects, the child learns to distinguish them based on their shape, colour, size and function. They can then build “rules” which help them categorise more things present in their environment. Furthermore, play-based based also enhances their ability for problem-solving and design thinking, where toys can be put together or broken apart to create new things from their imagination. Imagination plays a big role in pretend play, where a child may pretend to feed dolls, take care of their toy animals and cook food in their toy kitchens.
Motor skills, both fine motor skills and gross motor skills, actively develop with kids’ games, and this is not just limited to outdoor activities. Simple indoor games for kids, such as painting, drawing, playing with beads or play dough, make a significant impact on the development of their fine motor skills, which in turn work on enhancing their pincer grip for writing. On the other hand, jumping, climbing, crawling, and running aid in their gross motor skill development.
When children have games to play, it requires interactions with other people. This leads to the recognition and management of their own feelings and those of others. For example, when two children play together, they may experience joy, excitement or even anger when they do not want to share their favourite toys. Through fun games, they will slowly learn to understand how to share, take turns with each other, and play with collaboration. For example, one child will agree to be the doctor, while the other will pretend to be a patient.
Play requires communication in the most organic method, where they learn to have conversations with each other. They learn to ask questions and give answers to build or sustain a game from their imagination. For instance, in the Doctor game, the child playing the doctor will learn to ask questions, while the child playing the patient will learn to give an appropriate response for how she is feeling. Play based learning helps children build new vocabulary, language syntax and also the tonality of how we speak in different situations.
With an awareness of how crucial play-based learning is for children, manufacturers have now developed a plethora of useful educational games for kids. These toys are designed to promote a sense of fun and joy as the child learns without structured formal teaching.
Some of the most popular and loved educational games for kids are:
Present in the children’s market for decades, building blocks serve as one of the most quintessential toys in every child’s home. While younger babies and toddlers may enjoy the bigger sizes more, older children may prefer the smaller-sized ones where they can build more complex structures. Lego is a brand that has its own version of building blocks, for children aged 1 to adults aged 99 years old!
Taking the idea of blocks one step ahead, magnetic tiles are the latest craze with parents wanting educational games for kids. Magnetic Tiles (originally developed by Valtech Co) is a game for children where they build structures using tiles that magnetically stick to each other. It significantly aids in the cognitive development of children.
Pretend Play Toys:
Pretend play, such as kitchen sets, doctor sets, dolls, construction sets, supermarkets and more, are possibly the most all-rounded mediums of play-based learning. These games for kids encourage children to imagine as they role play, communicate with others, and create a whole new world for themselves. It also helps them build responsibility, kindness and confidence as they adopt new roles in their play.
While it may seem too simple, but play dough is a phenomenal play-based learning product that can be bought from a store or made at home using simple kitchen ingredients. It helps children refine their fine motor skills, dexterity, finger strength and agility, while also giving them a process-oriented game to play. It allows them to explore their own creativity as they create new things out of the mouldable clay.
While most of the aforementioned games are part of indoor activities, outdoor activities for children also fall under play-based learning. Perhaps, outdoor play is one of the oldest forms of play across the world. Whether it is jumping in muddy puddles, climbing trees, or running around each other playing tag, this play makes children’s physical bodies stronger. Adventure sports and adventure activities such as rock climbing, cycling etc also serve as cardiovascular exercise, increasing oxygen and blood circulation. It also helps strengthen their muscles and hand-eye coordination.
Apart from this, nowadays schools and parents both encourage outdoor activities with may also be calming and mindful. For example, gardening and nature walks can help children learn to regulate their emotions as they observe the beauty of nature around them. It also removes the child from a home environment of screens and gives them an opportunity for fresh air and even meaningful conversations with their family.
Beyond the games and toys for kids, art and craft is yet another popular and loved activity. Drawing, colouring, painting and crafting enhance a child’s fine motor skills as well as their creative abilities. Children do not need any fancy or expensive equipment to create their own masterpiece! Websites such as YouTube, Pinterest and Google now offer thousands of ideas where children can use scrap newspapers, cardboard and bottles to create art! Once your child creates something, make sure to ask them to tell you more about it; this will further nurture their linguistic development and will also help you understand your child’s thoughts and feeling