We’ve all heard of learning before play, but learning through play? Learning and play do not necessarily have to be isolated but are, in fact, closely connected! As difficult as it might be to believe, play is essential for children to hold onto that childlike sense of wonder and be curious about the world around them. Here’s a glimpse at what IB schools have to say about free play and how you can encourage it at home.
Why IB schools see the importance of free play
1. Social skills
Social skills are one of the essential skills that children develop and carry with them for life. It is also one of the most intricate skills as there is no fixed textbook method to achieve what you deem as good social skills; most are learnt along the way. With that, play is one form of activity where children can get to explore their social side.
Free play creates the perfect social setting for children to get to know each other and interact through their speech and actions. As they play with children that might be different from them, be it age, gender or others, they will learn to look past their differences to find common ground. Through frequent playdates with other children, your child gradually learns to express their ideas, listen to others’ opinions and even negotiate and resolve conflicts amongst themselves!
2. Cognitive ability
Besides social skills, another critical skill that your child develops through free play would be cognitive skills. While they are playing, their minds are, in fact, highly stimulated. You’ll be surprised to find that the activities they engage in would allow them to process information at a faster rate. These cognitive skills learnt can be applied to real-life scenarios as well. The next time they encounter a problem or a similar challenge, their minds would build the connection and similarly solve the issue.
3. Motor skills
The most significant feature of free play has got to be the activity. Running, jumping, dancing, you name it. Free play is when children are most engaged physically – this is especially crucial for their growing bodies! Encouraging free play would translate to an active lifestyle beyond play activities and for the long term.
What free play looks like in IB schools
Across the various IB schools in Singapore, teachers make it a point to dedicate sufficient time for free play or unstructured play. Children are given the liberty to choose an activity that appeals to their interests and play during this period. While doing so, they can engage with their peers while figuring out the dynamics of the activity.
Free play periods are a vital part of learning as children get to explore, discover and learn independently. Many international schools often take free play sessions out of the classroom into the outdoor setting. For example, children would interact with artefacts and even specially invited experts to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. Besides a hands-on approach to learning, the activities are specially designed to keep their minds active, encouraging them to hold onto their childlike sense of wonder even as they grow up!
How to conduct free play at home
1. Build a structure from scratch
Though it might be hard to get out and about during the pandemic, free play can be conducted everywhere, including the comforts of your home! One such way would be to build a structure from materials you can find around the house.
In fact, this is the perfect time to allow your child to take the lead rather than asking them to build something specific. Creativity in a child is boundless. Allowing them to visualise what they would like to create while considering the materials enables them to balance their imagination and practicality. To take it to the next level, incorporate lessons on environmental sustainability by asking them to use only eco-friendly materials. These could include items like used cardboard boxes, used plastic bottles and old newspapers.
2. Create a home musical
Want to develop your child’s inner Mozart but don’t have any instruments on hand? You could start at home just by experimenting with the sounds made from various items around the house. Also, children don’t have to be able to play an instrument to enjoy music. Pots and pans would work just fine for your child to create a tune they can dance or sing along to. For some added excitement, you could even turn this activity into a musical scavenger hunt!
Play does more than what we think for our little ones. There’s something about the fun energy and physical activity that allows the development of essential life skills. Your child needs to get a healthy dose of free play, so let these play ideas inspire your next family bonding activity! At international schools in Singapore, we say that whichever activity you choose to go with, don’t forget that the key element is fun!