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8 Ways to Encourage Young Children to Learn Through Play

Play is a powerful learning and development tool for children. It allows your little one to explore their world, develop cognitive and motor skills and foster social and emotional growth. It also encourages creativity, problem-solving and imagination.

Additionally, playtime enhances your little one’s physical well-being, communication and collaboration, which are essential life skills.

More importantly, play nurtures a love for learning and curiosity in children that can last a lifetime.

Since play is an essential part of your young child’s growth and development, finding ways to include it in their daily activities is important, even when they start kindergarten at one of the leading IB schools in Abu Dhabi.

Ensuring Your Child Learns Through Play Everyday

Since play is the gateway to your young child's holistic development, you must ensure they make the most of their learning experiences during their playtimes.

Below are some tips to help ensure your little one learns through play:

1. Have a play-friendly space in your home

A play-friendly area in your home ensures your child has plenty of opportunities to learn through play.

Ensure your child’s bedroom or playroom is stocked with a variety of toys, games and other supplies that encourage imaginative play. Building blocks, sand, puzzles, and arts and crafts materials can spark their creativity and problem-solving skills.

Additionally, provide a safe and comfortable space where your little one can explore and experiment without fear of judgement. A clutter-free, organised playroom can help them focus on their activities and learn through uninterrupted play.

2. Find a school that encourages learning through play

If your child is going to kindergarten soon, ensure they go to a school with educators and facilities that provide them opportunities to learn through play.

If you’re enrolling your child in kindergarten in Abu Dhabi, look for a school with a curriculum that follows or incorporates play-based learning. This approach focuses on children's natural inclination to learn through play by giving them activities that emphasise hands-on exploration, imagination, and creativity.

When your child constantly engages in activities like drawing, building, and pretending, they develop their cognitive, social, and emotional skills, helping lay a strong foundation for their lifelong learning.

Another option is to choose a school that follows the early years foundation stage (EYFS), a curriculum that emphasises the uniqueness of each child. It also fosters play and positive relationships, and provides young learners with a learning environment that is enabling and engaging.

Additionally, check the school’s facilities for young learners. Ideally, it should have indoor and outdoor areas where students can play and participate in fun educational activities.

Some facilities to look for include a child-friendly school playground and green spaces which incorporate an element of nature.

3. Foster open-ended play

Open-ended play is a form of play led by children with no instructions, restrictions, or required outcomes. It helps young learners develop skills like divergent thinking and adaptability.

Give your child plenty of open-ended toys or play materials, such as building blocks, clay, and natural items like sticks and stones.

These materials empower children to use their imagination and creativity to invent games and scenarios, which helps boost their problem-solving abilities.

Try to avoid giving your little one overly structured toys or those with a single predetermined use since they can limit your child’s opportunity for creativity and learning.

4. Encourage pretend play

Pretend or imaginative play is an excellent way for children to explore various roles and scenarios.

To boost your child’s interest in pretend play, give them dress-up clothes, dolls, action figures and other toys that fuel their imagination and encourage them to take on different roles, like a doctor, carpenter, or astronaut.

This simple activity allows your child to learn about various professions and gain a better understanding of the world around them.

Moreover, pretend play enhances language development, problem-solving and creativity and helps your young learner make sense of their experiences and emotions since they can act out different situations.

5. Foster social interaction with other children

One of the significant benefits of encouraging learning through play is that children can build and improve their social and communication skills and make friends.

As such, ensure your child plays with children their own or near their age by organising playdates.

During these playdates, have them engage in games and activities that encourage cooperation and communication. These can include tag, scavenger hunts, Simon Says and pretend tea parties.

These games help children develop empathy, negotiation skills, and teamwork. They also teach them about taking turns, sharing and resolving conflicts peacefully, social skills that are crucial for their success in school and life.

6. Provide opportunities for exploring nature and the outdoors

Nature offers an abundance of learning opportunities for children.

If you have a garden or lawn, spend several minutes here every day. Also, take your child to nearby public parks and green spaces.

Encourage them to touch leaves and flowers (if permitted) and observe insects, birds and other animals they see or come across.

These nature-based activities help your young learner develop a deep appreciation for the environment while enhancing their scientific knowledge.

Outdoor play also promotes physical development, balance and coordination. Climbing, running, and playing in green, natural spaces helps build their gross motor skills and overall health.

7. Introduce educational games

Playing educational games with your child can be a valuable addition to their playtime routine.

Choose board games, puzzles and educational apps that can help your little one learn concepts such as maths, language and critical thinking in an engaging way. Ensure they are age-appropriate and align with their interests.

If you want to introduce online games or apps, it’s recommended that you still limit their screen time.

By playing the right educational games with your child, you can introduce more academic concepts to them and foster their love for learning.

8. Play with your child

Lastly, younger children learn by example, so play with and join them as they engage in their activities. 

By doing so, you demonstrate the importance of learning while playing and strengthen your bond with them at the same time.

Also, engage in healthy and fun sports, activities and hobbies regularly. These can include cycling, painting and craft making.

When your child sees you doing these, they are more likely to view play and learning as enjoyable, vital lifelong pursuits. Moreover, they may be inspired to take up these activities and hobbies and join you whenever you do them.

By following these tips and being a supportive parent and role model, you can empower your child to develop essential skills and knowledge as they learn through play.