Ten Play-Based Learning Activities
According to the Council of Ministers of Education Canada, “play allows [children] to actively construct, challenge, and expand their own understandings through making connections to prior experiences, thereby opening the door to new learning.”
Play stimulates the imagination, helps kids develop confidence, but most importantly children learn without even knowing it. Here are some activities they’ll have fun doing while learning at the same time.
- Set up a water table or a sand table. Children love to play with water and sand, moving it from one container to another all while improving their fine motor skills.
- Play card games. Simple games, such as Go Fish, help children develop the ability to identify numbers and symbols, learn to take turns, and understand the role of rules.
- Building blocks. Building a castle or a tower takes patience and planning. Playing with blocks help children not only learn shapes, but also develop problem solving skills, be more imaginative, develop math skills, be creative, build confidence and self esteem, and develop teamwork skills.
- Make music. Banging on pots and pans is one option, but what about bonding over a homemade instrument? From maracas filled with dried beans, to guitars made of shoeboxes and elastic bands, you likely have all the supplies right at home.
- Finger painting. In addition to encouraging children artistically, finger painting also gives them the chance to experience sensory stimulation while learning with their hands.
- Language play. Together, recite tongue twisters or nursery rhymes, or make-up your own stories. This allows a child’s imagination to thrive, helps them make word associations and builds their language skills.
- Create a tickle trunk. Pretending to be an animal, adult or imaginary character is a common, and loved, game for kids. This helps foster their social development, especially in scenarios like “playing house.”
- Set up a nature-based scavenger hunt. Make a list of easily found objects, like pebbles, fallen leaves or pinecones, to teach your children about the natural world. Take it to the backyard, park or on your next camping trip.
- Set up an obstacle course. Kids get much needed physical exercise while having fun with their friends. As a bonus, they’ll fine-tune their motor control skills, balance, coordination, and learn to follow directions.
- Avoid over structured playtime. While providing games for kids can help support child development, the best activities—with the greatest opportunity for learning—are the ones led by children. Unstructured playtime is vital to the cognitive and social development of children, and ultimately, it lets kids just be kids.
For more play-based learning activities for newborns to six years, Welcome Here, a Canadian organization, has produced a series of age-appropriate brochures. Each includes learning milestones and are available in 13 different languages, including French and English.