You already know children love to play, but did you know that young children are actually wired to learn from play?
Play isn’t just something enjoyable for kids. It’s a vital educational tool that helps with their lifelong development. Their brains are made to experience the world in a playful way.
Important Learning Windows
Children are born with 100 billion neurons
. During the first few years of life, the brain goes through a variety of changes as children go through various experiences. As children begin to learn new things, the number of synapses per neuron increases, going from 2,500 to around 15,000 by age 3.
In order for synapses to go and connections to form, children need stimulation. From a loving parent talking to them to playing with their toys, these playful interactions help strengthen the synapses in the brain and build strong connections. Any connections that the brain doesn’t use are eliminated.
Since a child’s brain is like an open window after birth, the first several years represent important learning windows in a child’s life. The earlier a child begins to make connections, such as hearing language and how to interact with a toy, the stronger their social, communication and motor skills.
Wired To Learn Via Play
The way children form these vital connections is important. For instance, in one study
, children who were given specific instructions on how to interact with a toy only learned one thing that the toy did and they became bored quickly.
The second group of children were allowed to freely play and experiment with the toy. The result was an exploration of all the things the toy could do and highly engaged children.
Play Trumps Structure
While structured education is important, children are wired to learn from play. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that younger children learn more from unstructured play than they do from trying to memorize rules or follow specific instructions. Their minds need to be stimulated and exploring the world around them through play is how they learn best.
Researchers have found
that children take play seriously, even though they’re having fun. This means they focus more and learn more at the same time.
The lesson – let children play. It’s how they’re wired and how they’ll grow into incredible adults.