Now that Kindergarten is full day instead of half day, we will be using more play-based learning than we have in the past. What exactly does that mean?
There is a range in play-based learning throughout the world. In Finland, play-based learning means that children enjoy unstructured play throughout their day. It is entirely student-led learning. In this model, formal academic instruction - reading, writing, math, etc. doesn’t start until children are 7 years old (second grade). The other end of the spectrum involves teacher-led games and play tied directly to the academics being taught.
We believe that play-based learning is a healthy balance of unstructured, student-led play with teacher support as well as structured, teacher-led play that supports academic learning. Both types of play are important for developing young children. Student-led play helps children be more creative, socially capable, and emotionally aware. Teacher-led play enables academic learning to be engaging.
Play is a child’s way of learning and making sense of the world around him/her. Play helps develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain self-confidence that is needed to engage in new experiences.
Children’s ability to play progresses from playing alone and parallel play to cooperative or social playing. Critical thinking skills are developed by using creativity and innovation learned through play. The learning that children do together through play is more rich than the learning they do in isolation (strictly teacher-led).
As you might imagine, play-based learning is beneficial to all ages/grades, not just Kindergarten. In the older grades, play-based learning takes on the form of project-based learning and many of the same social, emotional, and academic benefits are present.