The playground is more than just a recreational space. It encourages a child’s learning growth sans the pressure to think. It is a mobile library where children expand their knowledge. It fuels motor skill development while they interact with one another. It encourages bias-free communication which helps improve self-confidence. It’s an opportunity for every child to connect with family, community, and nature, and still makes playing an educational activity. Schools too should provide an area for playing. A good example is the outdoor environment set up by Maragon Early Learning Centre where learning by playing is part of its program.
An hour of exploring in a park can be a life-changing experience, and the role of an adult — parent, guardian or mentor — is crucial in the quality minutes a child spends there. Hand-clapping games, digging holes or climbing monkey bars may mean nothing at all to grown-ups. But to a child, it’s an avenue to be creative, analytical, mindful and happy. Odd questions might be a cause for concern and at times anger. But while at play, it can be a starting point for problem-solving.
Sure enough, allowing children to play on their own promotes learning. But guiding them through can be both more helpful and fun. Having you around opens opportunities to maximize your child’s learning journey. Share the experience with him/her by applying these child-guided tips.
Step Back, Be a Follower
As a parent or mentor, it is innate to give instructions first before a child does something. When playing though, give them independence to do what they truly want, instead of confining them to what you like them to do. During playtime, your role is not to be a leader but a follower. Let them choose the materials they want to explore, the rides they love to go or the sprints they made barefoot. Always remember you’re with him/her to guide, not to dictate. Give a lot of room for independence to boost internal motivation.
Spot Ways for Learning
Be quick to find opportunities for learning. Follow the child’s lead as he navigates the play world while thinking of ways to introduce education. A flower garden can be a source of knowledge about plants, an identification of colors or can stimulate creative imagination. Counting numbers can be done while playing hide and seek. It doesn’t matter if it’s just basic — as long as the child learns while enjoying, it’s worth every second.
Ask and Answer
Treat every activity as a brain exercise where a child practices how to think on his own. Avoid asking close-ended questions. Steer the brain for a workout. Try going for the whys and hows, the cause and effect, the recall and process. The goal is not to receive accurate answers, but to enhance mental health. In the same way, always answer their queries, however hilarious, simple or complex they may be. Provide the information the way a kid can understand. Playing is a memorable time for them and your answers may stick with such memories.
Kids always find exciting ways to do things, especially new ones. But at times, you tend to act defensive and limit their actions. It’s natural. But, they aren’t babies anymore to be confined in a crib. Give them a break to discover, to know their interests and to explore their imagination. Encourage them to do things on their own and to play explorers in the field. You may never know how a child sees the world in his eye. As long as you got his back, there is no need to worry.
Every place is a chance for children to advance their skills. And leisure time at a playground is another moment to inspire learning. It won’t just be another walk in the park but a lasting memory that will leave a positive impact on a child’s mind and heart.