“Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning” – Diane Ackeman

As a Teaching, Learning and Play Expert I am often asked “What is play?” and I often reply simply, that play is fun! Play is learning, play is everything! Play allows us to escape the structure of our day to day lives and immerse ourselves in pleasure and enjoyment. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research” and it is essential to children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. I am an advocate for the power of play in learning and have put together 5 reasons we should all be playing more– no matter what age:

1. Development of self-worth

When we truly allow children the time, freedom and space to play we are truly allowing them to learn. Play develops a child’s sense of self-worth by giving them a sense of their own abilities. It gives children a safe space to investigate, create, test, problem solve and hypothesise without a formal given structure to follow. We are allowing children to use their natural curiosity to explore what is around them, ask more questions, test theories and knowledge and take risks.

2. Happiness

Happy children = happy learners. Play helps children gain confidence, boost their self-esteem, build relationships and relieve stress. It is also crucial for their emotional development and allows them to cope with emotions such as frustration, anger or fear in a situation they can control. It is the perfect opportunity for them to practise empathy, compassion, understanding and build up their resilience. By playing, children can learn to cope with their emotions and find solutions to situations they face. Children will not learn if their mental health is poor, play has a positive impact on children’s mental health.

3. Experience it to remember it!

Research shows us that children learn best through first-hand, active & multi-sensory learning. Play allows children to engage their creative side and escape rigid boundaries. When children are playing, they are often intrinsically motivated and leading their own learning through play. If it’s intrinsically motivating to them, and they have first-hand experience of it, they are more likely to remember it!

4. Communication

Play enables children to learn social skills which are crucial to their life. Children learn to share, lead, turn-take and co-operate without even realising they are learning. Play enables children to practise the communication and language skills they have learnt both verbally and non-verbally. Through play children learn to detect body language, affection, concern and a whole range of emotions which are crucial for their receptive language understanding.

5. It’s fun!

Ultimately, when we play we are doing something for fun! The rigid constructs of our world are taken away and our children can immerse themselves in their free, childhood world. There are no rules, there are very few boundaries and they are able to truly explore, engage and find joy in the wonder of play! 

Allowing children the time, space and freedom to play not only benefits their social and emotional well-being, but has a positive impact on their academic attainment too. Play is learning and learning through play is the best way to learn!