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Learning Through Play Compared to Academic Learning – Early Learning Solutions

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Famous psychologist Jean Piaget, who theorized the stages of cognitive development, often talked about the role of education in child development. He brought up important questions about developing creativity and innovation in the minds of the children. Piaget was an advocate of helping students understand learning through play. He believed that learning should be a process of joy and discovery.

The experiences of a child in the formative years are critical to their development. According to a study, positive experiences in the early years can lead to improved stress management capabilities, longer life expectancy, and better overall health. Besides this, early experiences also play an important role in the long-term social and emotional capabilities of individuals. When children experience learning through play, their brains are given a chance to develop and grow in an unhurried, language-rich, and nurturing environment.

Educational institutions often have different philosophies and approaches when it comes to teaching methods. These teaching methods and philosophies are either academically-focused or play-based or a combination of the two. But the question remains – how does play-based learning differ from academic learning?

Academic Learning

This form of learning was practiced in most educational institutions at the time. In academic learning, the students are led through a series of prescribed activities and lessons by the teachers. While the children are still given some playtime, the overall approach is quite structured. This form of learning makes sure that the children are well-prepared academically.

Play-Based Learning

In play-based learning, children are allowed to choose their own learning activities. Instead of following a structured approach, they are given an opportunity to engage in activities of their interest. The advantage of this approach to learning is that the children are able to develop fundamental knowledge about concepts in a more conducive environment. The positive experiences can have a profound impact on their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Major Differences Between Play-Based and Academic Learning

Years of research has shown that hands-on experiences are the best for children when it comes to learning fundamental concepts. This is what play-based learning seeks to implement. This form of learning uses a child-centric approach, with guided activities that enable the children to explore their own interests and develop knowledge in a unique way. Learning through play is markedly different from academic learning, as the former applies a more holistic approach to learning and development. While academic learning focuses on the cognitive development of children, play-based learning also covers socio-emotional and physical development.

Conclusion – Value of Play-Based Learning

It’s evident that play-based learning is a better approach to learning. It stimulates, supports, and motivates children to develop fundamental concepts, communication skills, language acquisition, and more. It essentially challenges the way in which children think. When children learn through play, they are encouraged to use all their senses to explore their environment and convey their thoughts. This allows them to connect new skills, knowledge, and attitudes with what they already know.

The biggest advantage of learning through play is that it helps in supporting positive attitudes toward learning. These positive attitudes consist of curiosity, imagination, persistence, and enthusiasm. The skills that are fostered in children during play are, in fact, difficult to achieve with the traditional methods of learning.


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