The Power of Play-Based Learning: New Research Shows Promise

The Power of Play-Based Learning: New Research Shows Promise



Play-based learning, more than any form of direct instruction, has been shown to be the most effective means of early education and development. This new research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that play-based learning improved outcomes for children in several important areas—including mathematical and spatial skills—when compared to traditional teaching methods. Here’s what you need to know about this exciting new development in education!



How children learn best


When it comes to early childhood education, there is a lot of debate surrounding the best methods for teaching young children. A new study has shown that play-based learning may be more effective than direct instruction when it comes to developing mathematical and spatial skills.


Researchers from Florida State University found that students who learned math through self-directed play were better at recognizing numbers and counting as well as understanding shapes and geometric concepts than their peers who received explicit lessons in math concepts. The same was true for preschoolers’ understanding of shapes and spatial relationships, which improved after they played with building blocks.



What is play?


Play is a key part of learning for young children. It helps them explore their world, try new things, and figure out how things work. Through play, children can develop important skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. One example of this type of play is pretending to be something they are not—like a dog or a superhero. Studies show that these types of pretend play help children develop social and emotional skills, as well as mathematical and spatial abilities.


Play also builds relationships among children. When they play together they get to know each other better and learn from one another—making it easier to learn from others when they become adults too!


The latest research shows that the way in which teachers deliver instruction matters greatly for the success rate in schools with students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Direct instruction was found to be less effective than engaging students in hands-on activities such as games or puzzles that require problem solving skills, even if those students were taught with direct instruction at home.



Let Kids Do Their Own Thing


Sure, some structure and guidance is important. But when it comes to play, kids know best. So let them guide the way and choose their own activities. They’ll learn just as much—if not more—than if you try to direct their every move. And there’s a bonus: Kids who have fun while they learn are more likely to want to keep playing. Which means that even after school, at home or in the backyard with friends, they’re still learning!



Promote Initiative


In recent years, there has been a growing body of research indicating that play-based learning can be more effective than direct instruction at improving outcomes for early learners—particularly in the development of mathematical and spatial skills. One study, conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), found that students who attended preschools with emphasis on play scored significantly higher on math tests compared to those who had experienced traditional preschools with limited or no emphasis on play.


Furthermore, children enrolled in these types of programs were shown to have increased spatial awareness which improved their ability to understand geometric shapes later on. The authors concluded that preschool experiences should promote exploratory cognitive tasks rather than discourage them. Another study from Stanford University found that when children are given toys and encouraged to explore them through their own imaginations, they learn how things work better than if adults simply show them how it’s done.



Create an Environment That Encourages Exploration


In order to create an environment that encourages exploration, you need to provide materials that are safe and developmentally appropriate. The materials should also be inviting and stimulating, so that children want to explore them. Additionally, the environment should be structured in a way that promotes curiosity and discovery. For example, you might set up a block area with loose parts so that children can build and experiment with different structures. Finally, it’s important to encourage caregivers to model curiosity and exploration for the children in their care.



Lead By Example


As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You can help your child develop math and spatial skills by leading by example and incorporating play-based learning into your everyday routine. Here are some ideas to get you started


  • – Choose an activity with your child that they find fun and challenging. It could be anything from counting bugs in the backyard or making silly faces in the mirror to drawing shapes or making towers out of blocks.


  • – Give them ample time for exploration and allow them to work on their own as much as possible while still being available for questions if needed.


  • – Mealtime is another great opportunity for teaching.



Invest In Things That Support Creativity, Not Suppress It


Children are born creative. It’s what makes them curious, enthusiastic and full of wonder. So why do we so often stifle their creativity as they grow older? We teach them to conform to rules and authority figures—to be good. But creativity thrives on exploration and boundary pushing, on trying new things that may not always work out in the end. There is a difference between being an artist and being creative. Artists follow predetermined methods for creating art or design – it is about following tradition or form with strict attention to detail. Creativity is about using your imagination and having fun through any means possible – be it painting, designing or inventing. The power of play-based learning has been scientifically proven by researchers at Johns Hopkins University who found that children who participated in play-based math instruction were more likely to outperform those who received traditional instruction when it came to understanding mathematical concepts such as counting numbers, geometry, shapes and measurement – all without feeling frustrated by tedious drills and practice problems.





In conclusion, the power of play-based learning should not be underestimated. This type of learning has been shown to be more effective than direct instruction in improving outcomes for early learners, particularly in the development of mathematical and spatial skills. Furthermore, play-based learning provides children with the opportunity to learn important social and emotional skills such as cooperation and communication. As such, it is an invaluable tool in preparing children for success in school and in life.

2,339 Comments on “The Power of Play-Based Learning: New Research Shows Promise”

  1. As teachers, we need to make sure that our students are learning how to think critically, and not just memorizing facts and figures we’ve presented them with. Doing so makes it far more likely that they’ll remember the content and be able to apply it in real life situations they’ll inevitably come across in the future. If you’re looking for some tips on how to help students think for themselves and develop their critical thinking skills, here are 10 of my favorites!

  2. Creating an avenue for the kids to create their own play is totally fun, an adage says all works without play makes Jack a dull boy. Giving time for play too can help in refreshing the memories.

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