Mommy, will you please play with me? As parents, how often do we hear this question? At least once a day? Or maybe our kids got so used to hearing, Not now, I’m busy honey … or perhaps maybe later baby girl … that they don’t even ask anymore. And unfortunately, times rarely exist when we are not busy and maybe later, simply never happens. So today, I’m talking to another one of our good moms, play based learning expert, Valerie Piro. And I’m so grateful to her for reminding me why we need to prioritize these moments where our little ones still want to play with us (we all know what happens as they approach their teenage years). And share her tips on how we can easily turn it into a clever learning experience.

child having fun with play based leanring

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You will find all the answers right here. And our guest expert, Valerie, not only recommends easy ways to get started using play based learning, but also shares a great freebie to show us how to use things around the house to create a fun learning experience. Little effort. No cost. Just the way we like it!

what is play based learning

I’m sure you’ve heard the term play based learning before. But what does it entail? Psychologists define this learning intervention as early childhood education, based on open-ended play, and led by your child. This is how Valerie describes it:

While play occurs naturally with children, learning through play happens when adults strategically connect the play to new concepts and extend the child’s thinking.

Play based learning is a combination of child-initiated and adult-guided hands-on experiences. When I think of play, I think about a joyful, hands-on, creative experience. When considered in this context, play is highly motivating and offers an opportunity to explore and test out new theories and concepts. It supports the development of self-confidence, new skills, concepts, language acquisition, communication skills, and concentration.

So when we consider the goal of education as going beyond gathering knowledge and rote memorization of facts to developing creative, innovative lifelong learners then we can see that learning through play is the optimal approach.

Valerie Piro,

play based learning interview

To help us understand why and how we need to use play based learning to boost our young kids’ development, I interviewed Valerie Piro from Watch the video below and find out how she implements play based learning interventions in her own home. And how you can use your child’s inner curiosity to easily help them learn new social, emotional, and cognitive skills.

how to get started using play based learning

in the video Valerie suggests we can provoke thinking and learning during play by choosing the right kind of activities and adding appropriate objects we have at home. And she shares these three tips to help us get started with play based learning at home

  • develop your kids independent play capacity
  • do toy rotations
  • stick to simple play ideas

And this is what each one of those are all about

ONE develop independent play capacity

Valeries suggests that we should focus on growing our kids’ skills to play by themselves from a very young age. But we can still continue to do so even when they are older. We can set up play based learning activities and then observe their learning experiences.

Teaching them the skill to play by themselves is gold. It gives us some much-needed time to get other things done without feeling guilty. It helps to know they’re busy with fun activities teaching them more skills while we do what we have to.

TWO do toy rotations

I love this idea of rotating our kids’ toys for two reasons. Firstly because they get to appreciate them more after being packed away for some time. and secondly, because it allows us to choose a new one based on their current interest and development level.

Remember that card game they received for Christmas when they were only two years old? Well, unpack it as soon as they show more interest and are ready to enjoy the numerous benefits of playing card and memory games. Valerie says that toy rotation is a great way to boost engagement and can help to make intentional learning choices when we provide ones based on current skills and as a means of building on their present-moment ideas.

THREE stick to simple play ideas

In tip number three, Valerie reminds us to not overcomplicate learning ideas and activities. And that we have to think about using things we already have at home and learn how to develop these into learning activities. That’s where her 100 loose items download comes in real handy to add some extra inspiration.

what are the benefits of play based learning

Now that we know what play based learning is and how to start using it, maybe we should stop for a second and consider the benefits and ask if it is really effective. And the answer is a simple yes. It can easily be turned into a positive learning experience when done right and there are tons of research showing that kids learn best when also having fun.

Play based interventions have been used to help kids overcome mental and learning disabilities for many years. And we have more than enough evidence to believe that this psychotherapy tool not only improves cognitive and learning skills in everyday life, but can even benefit those suffering from learning disabilities like ADHD.

Scientists suggest that an important part of ADHD treatment should include neural and social development through play, with parents, siblings, and peers and not only therapists. Play and language development have also been proven to be interrelated. And I love how one scientist suggests that this is true mostly because play in itself, is a form of language because of its symbolic representations.

Evidence shows that play based learning can improve our kids’ skills on various levels including

  • emotional
  • social
  • cognitive
  • language
  • communication
  • thinking ability

Knowing that play based learning can impact all these areas of our kids’ development in a positive way, I think the message is clear that we need to start focusing on spending more time with our young kids by means of learning through play. And just in case you’re still not convinced, here’s quote from a neurotherapeutic article that sums it up nicely.

… in this busy world, there are many competing demands for parents’ and children’s time; consequently, the amount of time children spend playing (particularly with their parents) has diminished.

By designing an intervention that encourages parents to play directed but fun games with their children, it provides the opportunity for parents to enjoy more positive interactions with their children, which may lead to a shift in the dynamic between parent and child.

Apart from being enjoyable, games provide opportunities for parents to set clear rules and place limits around children’s behavior, perhaps leading to an increased sense of parenting efficacy.

…engaging in play serves a critical role in young children’s social, affective and cognitive development.

Sarah O’Neill et al. Benefits of play based interventions

ready to learn more?

play based learning concluded

After reading this post, I trust that the next time your child asks to play, you will seriously consider finishing what you’re busy with and giving them the much-needed attention to play together. not only to have fun and build strong parent-child relationships, but also to help them learn.

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