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By Mandy Loh

 “Play is the work of the child”~ Maria Montessori

Play is the key ingredient to healthy intellectual, social and emotional development of children. Through play, children are better able to make sense of the world around them. 

Your child is unique
As parents, you may have dreams to nurture the next Albert Einstein or Mark Zuckerberg. The great news is that you can easily encourage learning and development through play! When children are having fun, they are engaged in the activity and will learn more readily. 
 

It is worthwhile to note that every child is unique and develops at his or her own pace. Avoid comparing your child’s ability with others; focus instead on understanding your child’s interests, learning styles, and celebrating their individual strengths and achievements.

Benefits 
Play Encourages Communication
Play allows children the opportunity to develop speech and language skills as well listening skills. Whether it’s during solitary play which involves self talk and narration (e.g. “my race car is about to reach the finish line, zroom, zrooooom”) or play with a companion, children communicate to add purpose to their play. The more vocabulary a child is exposed to, the greater the variety of words a child will incorporate into play.
 
Play Improves Cognitive Development
Pretend play requires the ability to transform objects and actions symbolically; it is furthered by interactive social dialogue and negotiation which encourages children to learn, imagine, categorise and problem solve. 
 
Play Encourages Relationship Building
Children who play with their parents and peers learn how relationships work through play experiences. Not only does it aid in development of social skills, it becomes an important part in a child’s life as it increases the number and quality of friendships made/ to be made.
 
Learning through play
Learning doesn’t always have to involve books, pencils and paper. Young children are like sponges, and have the amazing ability to absorb tremendous amounts of information around them easily. When you provide your children with plenty of opportunities to observe, investigate and discover their surroundings, learning will naturally occur. 
 
Allow your children to have lots of time outdoors, at the park, the beach, or even just the neighbourhood playground. Remember to apply insect repellent if necessary. Encourage them to use their various senses (hearing, touch, smell, sight and taste) to gather information, ask questions, and come to their own conclusions. Most importantly, give them the freedom to experiment at their own pace, and even let them get dirty and messy!
 

As Peppa Pig’s daddy would say, “it’s only mud!”

 
Avoid Zika and learn at home!
There are also great opportunities for fun learning in the comfort of your own home! The internet now provides unlimited resources at our fingertips. A great local website to check out is preschoolresources.sg, which provides some FREE and FUN learning resources for your little ones. 
 

The website is well-designed, with plenty of activities catered for toddlers as well as preschoolers. You can search by age group, or by learning themes such as “Weather” and “Transportation”. The best part is, you can download and print out all the colorful and attractive materials at home!

Three mommies with preschool-aged children tried out some of these resources, here are their experiences:

Wendy Lim with sons, Judah (4) and Joshua (3)
I loved the idea of having an activity based on a road map with car park lots since my boys are crazy about cars! I would recommend laminating the printouts so that it can be re-used.

The idea is simple and engaging. You can teach the multiple tables by asking your child a multiple question like ‘what is 2+3?’ and your child has to park the car in the lot with the correct number.

As a homeschooling mum, I have found that most websites with preschool resources are based in Australia and America. So it was nice to see ideas that are culturally relevant for us.

Shirley Ho with daughter, Iris and friend, Esther (both 5)
We tried “My Singapore” and “Singapore Ethnicity” activities. It was informative and easy to understand. The online resources are very helpful and I’m glad to see quite a decent resource building up, especially those focused on Singapore and our local culture.

 
Learning about Singapore’s multi-cultural society!

Mandy with son, Cristan Loh (5)
While printing out the resources, my printer ran out of ink! But Cristan was more than happy to colour in some of the pictures! He also enjoyed classifying and grouping the cutouts into air, land and sea themes.

 
Colouring the fish like Nemo!

Since there were English and Mandarin words labelled on each picture, I took the opportunity to teach both languages while we were playing the matching game. I was also pleasantly surprised that he could sit still for an entire half an hour that we were doing this! 

The icing on the cake?
The beauty of learning through play is that children do not even realise that they are learning! Parents who adopt this approach get to enjoy fun and games with their children, spend quality time together, and inculcate in them a love for learning that will last a lifetime. 
 

That’s a definite win-win situation!

Sources:

  • http://www.child-encyclopedia.com
  • http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/baby-through-preschool-articles/top-3-benefits-of-learning-through-play/
  • http://preschoolresources.sg/

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