Do you feel that your kids aren't doing enough 'school based' learning, especially during lockdown? Do you feel that you should be sat at a table with a pencil and paper, writing things such as letters, words, numbers or doing something more 'educational' that just 'playing'? Then this blog could help you to understand why 'play' is actually more important before writing and maths. 

How would your child learn to use language if they didn't play?

Play lays the foundations for reading, writing and communication. Through play children get to make and try out new sounds with their friends and make up stories while playing with sticks, dolls, mud, sand, water or anything else they choose to play with while telling stories with their imagination. 

It is this imagination that later on in life children will use to write stories. These stories will already be full of description and adjectives because they developed a rich language while playing when they were younger - not made to try and hold a pencil properly when actually their muscles in their hands aren't developed enough for that yet. 

Play is learning. 'Play nurtures development and fulfils a baby’s inborn need to learn. Play takes many forms, from shaking a rattle to peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek. Play can be done by a child alone, with another child, in a group or with an adult.' (National Literacy Trust) 

Play is an important part of a child’s early development. Playing helps young children’s brains to develop and for their language and communication skills to mature.

by Theirworld 

As an experienced Early Years teacher and watching children play for years it is clear to see that play underpins the foundations of learning for all children. Here are some key reasons from the Literacy Trust on why play is so important:

  • Play encourages adults to communicate with the children in their lives. Adults support play by giving children opportunities to play, and by knowing when to intervene, and when not to intervene.
  • Play gives children the chance to be spontaneous. You may think your child should be rolling the truck on the ground but that doesn’t mean that truck is not equally useful as a stacking toy.
  • Play gives children choice. Having enough toys or activities to choose from will allow children to express themselves.
  • Play gives children space. To practise physical movement, balance and to test their own limits.
  • Play allows adults to learn their child’s body language. Knowing when you should incorporate yourself in your child’s play is key.
  • Play teaches adults patience and understanding. If you do choose to join in your child’s play make sure that you do not try to take it over and force incorporation of your ultimate learning objectives into their play. Structured adult-led activities have their time and place but remember to allow for time for children to control and decide their own play.
  • Play is fun. Learning to play well, both by themselves and with others, sets children up to be contented and sociable.

When children are playing they will use mathematical terms in their play without even knowing it. If children are building Lego or Duplo they will be using shape and space skills to work out which bricks will come next or fit in the space they have. They also will be building for a purpose - which could be for animals, this shows their understanding of the world and that animals need somewhere to live. Through play children are building on the knowledge that they already know. The best thing about play is, it's free, you can find things in the garden to make up stories with or retell familiar stories. 

Helen Glossop
Owner of Baby and the Gang and an experienced Early Years and Primary School Teacher. 

Talking to your child is an invaluable 'free' resource for your child. 

Talk, listen and respond are three important tools you can use with your child. The more you talk to your child the better they will be at communicating. Children will then be confident and happy learners at school. 

useful links

Make your own Holdie Teepee By Olli Ella 

50 Things to try at home By Alisitar Bryce-Clegg

Words for Life
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