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Discover why play is the best way to teach children

Early childhood education is of crucial importance. Indeed, researchers believe that the best period for learning is between birth and the eighth year of life. At this age, cognitive capacities are very high and can keep pace much faster than when we become adults.

In this race against time, however, it’s not a question of constantly filling our little ones’ heads, with no regard for their well-being. The aim is first and foremost to arouse their curiosity and encourage them to broaden their knowledge without forcing them. This is where games come in.

Un jeune garçon aux cheveux mi-long blond avec un pull bleu qui joue avec un boulier de couleur pour apprendre à compter
Learning through play is one of the most productive learning methods for a child

Games develop children’s skills

UNICEF is working hard to include learning through play in small schools, because this concept can really provide a better foundation for our children. Nevertheless, it’s still an uphill battle, as many still don’t understand the true importance of play in school pedagogy.

Our first argument in this direction is the acquisition of new skills through games. For children, games are the equivalent of the practical exercise of the knowledge they already possess. To this extent, they help our little ones develop. They learn best by doing. Abstract concepts such as written lessons are difficult for them to understand.

Construction games are a good example. Thanks to this medium, a child discovers in concrete terms what geometric shapes are. By manipulating the game’s blocks, they gradually assimilate the use of a square, triangle or rectangle.

By playing puzzles, children can learn a few rudiments of mathematics. They also know how many pieces there are, and whether any are missing. There are also numerical puzzle models that make it easier for little ones to learn the concept of numbers.

In other words, manipulating objects is crucial to their everyday learning. Through games, children learn to create a project, solve their own problems, rectify a mistake, reason, communicate and develop an idea. Quite simply, because games require thought, common sense, creativity and imagination. And all this our children do unconsciously when they play.

Games encourage involvement in activities

Involvement is a very important factor inlearning. A disinterested person will find no use in assimilating new knowledge. This is also true of children. You’ll no doubt have noticed their impatience at interminable family gatherings or when you wait too long for an order in a restaurant. Activities that don’t arouse their curiosity don’t engage them. No matter how much you force them, it will only make the situation worse, and they’ll even feel disgusted.

On the other hand, during the games they play at home or with their friends, little ones show great concentration and do their utmost to achieve their goal. Thanks to this involvement, they assimilate things better and even make new discoveries that they’ll be sure to apply during their next play sessions.

5 enfants qui sont réunis autour d'un jeu sur une tablette, il y a 3 jeunes filles et 2 jeunes garçons.
Play is sometimes the best way to get children involved

In this condition of concentration, learning is faster. Hence the interest in games such as puzzles, building blocks, tangrams or notion boxes. These activities teach children to focus and organize their ideas in order to bring their projects to fruition.

Games to apply and deepen knowledge

First and foremost, it’s important to cultivate children’ s sense of wonder. Without it, they’ll quickly tire of everything and lose interest in the news. That’s why it’s essential that the desire tolearn comes from them. So don’t force them to do anything you think will benefit them. To preserve their innate sense of wonder, you need to give them freedom. But what role do games play here?

Games have the advantage of being iterative. They can be repeated several times without quickly boring children. Through the various attempts they make to win, or to understand the processes involved in a game, little ones acquire new skills. At the same time, they have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and put it to the test, with the aim of solving new puzzles. It’s in this kind of situation that a thirst forlearning is slowly born.

In games, children experience their environment and every object in it on their own. In this way, they naturally develop their curiosity to discover the usefulness of every element within their reach. They don’t feel obliged to do so, but they do feel the need to solve the mystery they face. Under these conditions, assimilation is faster.

Games encourage social interaction

Living in society is part of being human. That’s why it’s essential to get children used to interacting with their community. This means bringing them into contact with other children in their age group. However, integration should take place naturally, without pressure from you and, above all, gradually. A sudden change in their environment can affect their psychological state.

The first contact is often the most difficult. Because of shyness or fear, two children may not approach each other for a long time, unless they suddenly find the same interest in an object or activity. This is where play comes in.

Attracted by curiosity, children tend to bond quickly to achieve their common goal. A younger child, for example, may come up to an older one and try to figure out what the latter is playing at.

7 jeunes enfants qui sont assis en cercle par terre dans la classe d'école avec leur maitresse, ils jouent avec une grosse balle verte qui tourne dans le cercle
Games are a good way to teach children to socialize

In cooperative games, participants help each other solve a puzzle. This type of activity is designed to develop communication skills. Through repetition, children get to know each other and shed their complexes more easily. In this way, they acquire the ability to better welcome newcomers and make new friends.

Games help children understand their environment

For children, the world is made up of many mysteries. Through play, they try to better understand the objects that surround them and the environment in which they live. They also use what they’ve learned to broaden their horizons.

This phase of their development is essential if they are to become autonomous and independent sooner or later. Playing with this in mind helps children hone their ability to find meaning in their everyday actions. They discover the usefulness of certain objects, the meaning of certain behaviors and much more.

On a puzzle representing the human body, for example, they can locate the body’s various organs and their functions. They learn how their bodies work. On a wooden puzzle of a carrot harvest, they get an idea of how these vegetables are grown and where to find them. They also gradually learn to distinguish the color of objects.

At what age should children start learning?

Learning is vital for human beings. It’s through our knowledge that we evolve and come up with new ideas to improve our lives. After many years of research, specialists agree that building a good foundation is necessary to better assimilate future teachings. For this reason, it is recommended that learning should start at the age of two and continue until the age of 8.

However, it’s not a question of integrating our children into school too early. Parents are responsible for a large part of their children’seducation. First and foremost, they need to master their bodily functions: walking, holding objects, eating, drinking, speaking and so on. In this sense, learning begins even at birth.

The first step is to encourage children‘s awareness. Games are an effective way of doing this. Their role is to stimulate the senses of the youngest children. They then gradually assimilate notions of color, shape, sound, size and texture, and gradually understand the components of their environment.

Among the games we recommend are play mats. They’re usually brightly colored and equipped with small suspended objects that your babies can try to capture. There are also musical mats to introduce your children to music.

Getting started with the Montessori method

Using games as aneducational medium is not a new concept. Among the best-known teaching methodsbased on this thinking is Montessori . What is it?

What is the Montessori Method?

An alternative educationalmethod created by Maria Montessori, Montessori pedagogy advocates the importance of experimentation and autonomy in learning. According to Montessori, these two factors are essential for cultivating a child’s self-confidence.

Un petit enfant noir assit à sa table dans sa classe d'école autour d'autres enfants, il joue avec un jouet montessori en bois
Play in Montessori education leads to autonomous calculation

More than that, awakening the senses is a crucial phase in a child’s development. To encourage this, the best way to succeed is to put children in situations where they can learn to use their 5 senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

To learn to write, for example, the Montessori method uses what are known as rough letters. These are cards on which symbols are drawn. Children are then invited to follow the meaning of these symbols and reproduce them with chalk on a slate. Both sight and touch are involved.

The advantages of the Montessori method

The Montessorimethod has now been adopted by a number of educational systems for children. Many have already experienced the benefits of this pedagogy. Here are just a few of them:

  • The subjects taught are varied
  • Children learn to be responsible
  • Children quickly become autonomous
  • Children acquire a positive psychology to cultivate self-confidence
  • The Montessori method requires a certain level of involvement on the part of children. This helps them develop concentration.
  • Montessori pedagogy promotes respect for others
  • Children are constantly stimulated to boost their cognitive capacity

How to apply the Montessori Method

The Montessori method starts at home. To do this, you need to create a safe space for your children to play in. Install low furniture that is easy for them to reach. Then fill the room with toys of all kinds to arouse your little ones’ curiosity.

In the Montessori method, wooden toys are recommended. They offer a better learning experience. Give priority to natural elements such as earth, leaves, plants and stones. This will familiarize the child with nature.

You can also place fragile objects in the child’s play area. If he breaks them, at least he’ll have understood how to handle them in the future.

Teaching through play: our conclusion

A child’s classroom should above all encourage mastery of the different senses and organic functions of the human body. To understand these various abstract concepts, children need concrete support to obtain answers. That’s what games are all about, showing them the meaning of the things and objects around them.

For this reason, many specialists recommend sending your child to a Montessori school. What’s more, even organizations such as UNESCO are lobbying for educational play to be prioritized in small schools.

That said, since the best time tolearn is from birth to age 8, you can already teach your children some basic notions at home. To do this, offer them educational toys that will attract their curiosity. At Kids World, we have a wide range of toys to suit all ages. Our puzzles, for example, are suitable for Montessorilearning.

And what about you? What kind of games have you chosen for your children? How did they learn? Tell us about your experience in comments.

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