Play helps children to develop the skills, knowledge, and values that lay the foundation for later learning and development. For example, play helps children learn to listen, work with others, and use language to express themselves. Evidence shows that developing these foundational skills is more important for young children than is knowledge related to particular subjects like language arts, science, and math, which children develop as they advance into formal schooling.
Research on playful learning, particularly guided play, indicates that this approach is equally effective to direct instruction in delivering academic content, and leads to better academic and non-academic outcomes for young children. The balance between freedom and structure in guided play encourages children to become active and engaged partners in the learning process. Outcomes supported by playful learning include motivation, executive function and self-regulation skills , cooperation, social skills, creativity, reading, writing, speaking, and math, among others. Furthermore, play helps to build the idea that learning is fun and meaningful. By promoting active engagement and opportunities for new and creative experiences, learning through play empowers a child to be an active and confident learner.
In summary, playful learning is crucial for supporting children’s social and emotional development and creativity, which, in turn, eases their transition to formal schooling and later academic achievement.