Play-based learning has proven to be beneficial for learning among children of all ages and indeed among adolescent and adult learners.
Play is a vehicle for learning because it “…nourishes every aspect of children’s development—it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life. Play “paves the way for learning.” (Canadian Council on Learning, Let the Children Play: Nature’s Answer to Early Learning 2006, p. 2)
Play is an important way in which children learn. It supports, sustains, extends, enhances, and enriches the child’s learning.
Through play, children have valuable opportunities to interact with others in a variety of social settings and to use language meaningfully as they explore, plan, imagine, experiment, manipulate, dramatize, negotiate rules, and pose and solve problems. Play enables children to work out their ideas and theories and to use what they already know in order to deepen their understanding and further their learning. It allows them to actively construct, challenge, and expand their own understandings. At play, children of all ages are often highly motivated: they concentrate, persevere, and make decisions.
The benefits of play are recognized by the scientific community.
There is now evidence that neural pathways in children’s brains are influenced by and advanced in their development through exploration, thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression that occur during play. Research also demonstrates that play-based learning leads to greater social, emotional, and academic success....
In fact, play is considered to be so essential to healthy development that the United Nations has recognized it as a specific right for all children. (CMEC Statement, 2012) Play expands intelligence, stimulates the imagination, encourages creative problem solving, and helps develop confidence, self-esteem, and a positive attitude toward learning. (Dr. Fraser Mustard, CMEC Statement on Play-based Learning, p. 1)
As children mature, they grow in their ability to deal with abstract concepts, to generalize from their experiences, to learn from different media, and to work independently for longer periods of time. As always, play, the active engagement with events, ideas, materials, and other people, continues to provide important learning experiences.