As you choose a daycare centre for your child, you're likely to look around a few places to find the right one. As you talk to centre staff and read their websites and literature, you'll learn more about the ways each centre will help your child learn. The concept of play-based learning will probably come up a lot.
What is play-based learning and why is it important?
What Is Play-Based Learning?
Pre-school children who go to kindergarten or daycare centres don't just get a safe environment that allows them to mix with other kids; they also learn during their sessions. Formal school learning isn't so much of an option here. However, play-based learning is different.
This kind of learning encourages children to learn through hands-on play. Playing is, after all, what most younger kids are good at. The principle here is that playing, on their own and with others, teaches children basic skills that they will then build on in later life. For example, if your child is playing with blocks, then their teacher may engage with them as they play. The teacher may start to count the blocks your child is using to help them develop maths skills. They may use their block project to talk about spatial concepts like height and width.
The point here is that the teacher is using your child's play preferences to help them learn (instead of putting them through a formal teaching exercise) by using toys as teaching aids.
What Are the Benefits of Play-Based Learning?
Pre-school kids aren't necessarily ready for structured group academic learning at this stage in their lives. They don't have the skills required yet and need to work at their own pace. However, they do need to develop certain skills before they go on to school.
Learning through play helps children develop the key skills that they'll need in a formal school environment. These skills can be social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural. They help your child understand more about the world and their place in it. This kind of learning is fun for kids; they don't see it as being anything more than part of their play. Each child will learn different skills at different times, depending on what they are doing and how centre staff interact with them.
If you want to learn more about how your daycare centre uses play-based learning, talk to the centre's manager.