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The first 2 000 days of a child’s life is not about preparing for school. It is also not about laying the foundation for “real learning”. Play is when brain major development occurs. It is therefore important to help children learn through play. 

What happens in the first five years of a child’s life will have a significant impact on their long-term prospects for health, education, lasting friendships and happiness. 

Play doesn’t require expense or taking time out from your busy day, you can turn your daily routine into opportunities to play and use the tools at your disposal.

Learn fundamental skills through play

A 20-year study of children in Jamaica found that early stimulation for toddlers increased their future earnings by 25%. The learning that comes from play, reading and interacting with their peers is important. It allows children to explore and make sense of the world around them. A play-based curriculum is therefore the ideal way to teach and develop fundamental skills, says Derryn Randall HOD of St Martin’s Pre-Prep Phase.

Find out how more about building things as part of helping children learn through play. 

Pretend or ‘symbolic’ play (such as playing house or market) is especially beneficial. It allows them to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings. They learn how to control their emotions and interact with others. They also have greater confidence when resolving conflict. Play is a natural tool that children can use to build their resilience and coping skills. By re-enacting fantasy heroes, for example, they learn how to overcome their fears.

For more about how to unlock your child’s potential through play and the importance of fantasy play, read here

Dressing up to learn

“At school, children love the opportunity to dress up in the fantasy corners in our classrooms and are intrigued by the STEAM (​​Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) activities that form part of our structured play. Children marvel at the age-appropriate science experiments. We have therefore added further play-based developmental activities by introducing Cubetta – a coding robot, to begin teaching the fundamentals of coding from an early age,” explains Randall. 

“Sometimes parents are sceptical of a play-based curriculum. A structured day that incorporates supervised play activities as well free play with their peers is vital for their development.” St Martins has years of experience in helping children to learn through play in a well-equipped environment. 

Randall concludes: “Play satisfies a basic human need to express imagination, curiosity and creativity. The critical skills that children acquire through play in the preschool years form part of the fundamental building blocks of 21st-century skills”

Ways children learn through play:

  • Use building blocks to develop cognitive skills
  • Solid objects can be used to teach abstract concepts
  • Fantasy play helps children manage their emotions and fears
  • Interactive play teaches children about sharing and building relationships
  • Dancing in patterns encourage an understanding of the underlying patterns in mathematics