Child’s Play: Learning and the Importance of Letting Kids Play

PlayingWalk into any pre-school or primary school classroom and you are likely to find toddling superheroes battling imaginary villains and monsters.

People often take for granted the fact that young children play and pretend. Chances are you often tell your kids to quiet down when their playing gets a little too rowdy. But is that a good thing? Most of the time, it is not.

Learning and Playing

Many parents do not want their youngsters spending hours playing games on the computer. You probably say kids do not learn anything from games. Several educators in Australia, however, disagree; they say it is the opposite and is actually a great way for people to learn from new experiences.

Minecraft, for example, provides a great opportunity for kids to practice creativity. It lets gamers build anything they want out of virtual blocks. Catherine Beavis, an education professor at Griffith University, says school still have a long way to go to harness the educational potential of video games, but they are getting there.

She says video games can be highly motivating and that it can lead to deeper conceptual and factual understanding, but people still “need to find ways to use them that are consistent with the ways teachers teach.”

This highlights the need for classroom and school resources in Australia to adapt to the changing times.

Silly and Science

Research in the field of cognitive development suggest that when kids pretend, be it through an online game or actual physical play, they are not just being silly—they are actually practicing science.

Counterfactual thinking—such as how Albert Einstein wonders what would happen if a train travels at the speed of light—is at play when children play. The better they are at pretending, the better they can reason about counterfactuals; that is, they are better at thinking about the different possibilities of a given situation.

This is important because the ability to think about possibilities plays a crucial role in how toddlers learn.

Playing and having fun is always part of the learning process. Every one learns new things differently, and when it comes to the toddlers, an important thing to remember is that they will always learn things the way they want to.