When my preschooler is sitting on the floor, building castles or even dialing into her cute little toy phone, it’s clear that she’s honing her fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in a huge way. They are constantly learning through play. Between the ages of 2 and 4, our kids’ brains are just as busy as their hands, continuously processing incoming stimuli and developing amazing cognitive functions. Through freewheeling and imaginative play, kids enter a very active learning zone that encourages their curiosity and builds their independence.
My little one loves to play with her little LEGO Duplo Creative Play Set and likes to get really creative with her architecture (the little toy dog has attempted some dangerous stunts, to say the least). Quickly after turning 2, she surprised me with facts about her toys, such as colors and shapes, which were conclusions she derived from watching her older brothers, but while playing by herself. These associations were so inspiring and significant, as own your preschool child can experience, and are the direct result of old-school (no electronics, independent) play. Here are4 of the most important aspects of learning through play:
1. Young minds learn how to handle challenges.
It happens during most playtimes: Something doesn’t work out the way your child had planned. When my oldest was a toddler, he would encounter super hard decisions in his short life, such as “I don’t have enough yellow bricks to build the giraffe?” or “the bridge you just finished cracks in half!?!?”. The kid would have fits of rage if his creations shattered unexpectedly. The important thing is for moms, dads, and teachers to always be there to assure them, “hey, it’s ok”. Starting over is also part of the fun. Easier said than done, I know, but with patience and consistency, kids will come to terms and hone their problem-solving skills way sooner than you think.
2. Kids begin to Understand Cause and effect.
Moreover, there’s a deeper understanding of cause and effect. Even when they’re building towers and immediately knocking them down with squeals of delight, children are grasping the concept of cause and effect. Through trial and error, kids begin to understand how much pressure is required to snap bricks together or pull them apart, and how high they can build before gravity takes over. As soon as the concept sinks in, you’ll quickly notice that they get a lot more careful with their special creations and more visibly upset when other kids pose a threat.
3. Learn how to be a buddy.
What’s more fun than playing? Playing and hanging out with a good pal, of course. Even though preschoolers’ play is more side-by-side than cooperative, such get-togethers can be a stepping stone toward true friendship. Even if big concepts such as sharing and cooperation don’t happen overnight, believe me, this vital social skill is developing. It’s most noticeable among kids who are rarely exposed to this kind of environment.
4. Unleash the joy of creativity (my favorite!)
One of the most beautiful thing that kids are constantly learning to play is how to unleash their imagination. During play, children naturally turn to new and unexpected creations… and momma is so proud!
They love to act out stories with toys – whether that’s mimicking grown-up behavior (think playing house or school) or moving into fantastical worlds of fairies and pirates. They can conjure up the wildest, scariest adventures and still feel safe.
There are dozens of other incredible ways kids learn while playing, so keep your eyes and ears open when there’s a building project going on in your living room. Your child might even teach you something.