In our November issue of Think Gazette, we shared what we aim to enable children to learn and develop during the early years. In response to the positive comments from colleagues and parents, we would like to extend our sharing on the topic and talk about how we enable children to learn in our environment.
Children learn and develop quickly in the early years, and getting them interested, engaged and involved in the learning process is an optimal condition for learning to happen. Even in the midst of the pandemic, happy learning experiences must continue and are ever more important.
How do children learn? Learning happens when children are happy and when they play. It involves children’s natural curiosity that allows them to explore and investigate the environment with their bodies, minds and senses, but most importantly, it stimulates them to ask questions, test theories, solve problems and practise critical thinking. It fuses the intellect and emotions of children to make connections and develop the capacity for higher-order thinking. Play is often talked about as a way to relieve children from serious learning; but actually, it IS serious learning for children.
‘Play is the work of the child’
Findings of latest neuroscience research make it clear that the optimal condition for children to learn is when they are engaged in play, exploration and inquiry. It is a state in which children are ‘learning with a smile on their faces’. As they engage in the pleasurable and enjoyable experiences of play, they are likely to be happy and free from stress; this condition enables children to develop the motivation to want to know more, which is the basis for the development of a positive disposition for self-initiated learning.
‘Play is the highest form of research’
When children engage in play, learning becomes a constructive and fun experience
1. It is developmentally appropriate
The learning interests and needs of each child develop at different paces and ways. Parents should observe the child continuously and make provisions in the environment suitable to the child so that engagement is relevant. What intrigues one child may not have the same effect on another; therefore it is important for parents to spend time and play together with the child to learn more about the individual growing needs, intellectually and emotionally.
2. It is hands-on The young child learns with the five senses. Under suitable conditions, touching, smelling, tasting in addition to seeing and listening to the things in the learning environment will motivate the child to learn with an inquiry stance and develop deeper understanding about the world. Parents can play games with the child to isolate each sense so that concentration can also be enhanced in the process.
3. It leaves room for asking questions
Learning has to happen with the heart and the mind. Allowing time and space to work on tasks and activities will provide the child with opportunities to observe, wonder and ask questions. Parents can guide the child to take notice about simple things in the surroundings, build wonderings and look for answers together. Your child will not only benefit from the knowledge and skills derived from the learning experience, but also the pleasure of having your accompaniment.
Learning should be a process of empowerment and an endeavor of happiness pursuit. By offering rich learning opportunities through play, exploration and inquiry, the child is stimulated and supported to gain positive experiences, which will propel them to develop confidence to initiate further learning by taking risks. When the child is unafraid to fail, exposure for learning widens, creating even more opportunities for inquiry self-directed learning. Parents should encourage the child to learn through trial and error, as there are no right and wrong answers in play and exploration.
'Play is our brain's favourite way of learning'