Learning at Play
Susan Hansen, Extension Educator
UNL Extension in Colfax County
Pre-school children spend a large part of their day at play. What are sometimes looked at as all fun and games are actually learning experiences.
A child’s work is his/her play. There is more happening than just a game or a paint brush moving across paper.
Painting on paper helps develop creativity and imagination. A child learns the names of colors and how colors combine to make new colors. Holding and moving a paint brush helps develop coordination that will later be used when writing. Children often make up stories about things that they have painted; this helps in language development.
Art projects of any type help a child learn design principles - texture, line, balance, proportion. Eye-hand coordination is also developed through cutting, gluing and taping.
The sand box offers many learning experiences. Developing creativity and imagination by making shapes and figures is one of these experiences. Pouring sand or moving sand sets the stage for basic math concepts of addition and subtraction. In other words, adding sand to one pile and taking away from another pile helps begin math learning. Sand can also help soothe a child (and an adult). Running hands through the sand can relieve tension and stress.
Games such as puzzles, blocks and snap-apart toys help develop coordination between the eyes and the hands as well as learning about size, color and shapes. Puzzles are good at developing skills of deduction - which of the pieces definitely won’t fit together and why; which of the pieces may fit together and why.
Playing house helps develop social skills and an understanding of the world around them. The make-believe situations and roles help develop skills in language, creativity and imagination.
Playing in the yard offers great opportunities to learn about the environment - plants, insects, animals, weather. Curiosity runs wild. Curiosity is essential in the world of science.
Reading a book, looking at pictures, or being read to can increase language skills.
Next time you see a child playing, remember that learning is also taking place.
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