As parents navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, we have been faced with many changes and much uncertainty. Additionally, we have been confronted with a new and unexpected situation when it comes to educating our children at home! Home-schooling has been adopted by the majority of parents. However, many parents feel under great pressure themselves at times and ill-equipped to home-school their children. In light of this, play-based learning is a useful concept!

Early Childhood Educators from Deakin University note “research shows that play-based learning enhances a child’s academic and developmental learning outcomes. Children are naturally motivated to play, and a play-based program builds on this motivation, using play as a context for learning. In this context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems. Whilst children are playing, parents can ask questions that encourage problem solving, prediction and hypothesising, aiming to stretch the child’s thinking to higher levels.” (The Conversation, 2018).

I was delighted to catch up with Mrs Sam Williamson, Director of Warrawee Care Centre. Mrs Williamson explains that “play-based learning capitalises on a child’s natural sense of inquiry and discovery through hands-on exploration of the world around them. As an educator, I embed elements of teaching and learning within play experiences that children are interested in, are naturally drawn to, and are therefore more likely to stay engaged with. Play-based learning provides an important opportunity to work with children to explore concepts and build children’s life skills, as well as an opportunity to help children develop self-confidence and self-esteem.”

“It is proven that play-based learning is fundamental for brain development in children as it provides opportunities that build and develop brain pathways over time through a deeper level of thinking.  Their engagement has intellectual and cognitive benefits as the child develops memory and language skills and learns to self-regulate their behaviour.” Mrs Williamson invites parents to “view play as a context for learning in which children organise and make sense of their social world and to appreciate the significant learning outcomes children achieve in freely exploring and engaging in play. Next time you are watching your child play, take a moment and recognise the meaningful learning that is occurring and shaping the child for the future.”

Play-based learning in action at my house involved the sighting of the International Space Station in the April evening sky! We discussed where, when and for how long we could enjoy the best view. We examined weather reports and the compass points. With great anticipation we went to a local park and tried to spot the ISS. Later we wrote about the planets, orbits and other fascinating features of Earth’s Solar System. It was a fun-filled astronomical learning journey of discovery!

Sarah Wainwright, BSc (Psychology), Postgraduate Diploma (Psychology), Writer, Third Culture Kid, wife and mother of 4. Sarah is a Sydney-based parenting expert and shares her experience and observations on Instagram @_parentingtips_