The importance of learning through play

Learning through play is a fundamental aspect of a child’s holistic development, enhancing physical, emotional, mental and social development. Despite this recognition of being vital for children’s healthy development, play opportunities are not always effectively incorporated into home and school environments. At Heywood Nursery, we aim to reverse this trend and there is an abundance of opportunities for children to explore the world and discover more through play in our setting.

Adults’ perceptions of play have shifted in recent years, to a point where its value has become less of a priority and often misunderstood. Often the quantity of free play opportunities that children engage with is significantly reduced as there has been an increased focus on academic learning and children are kept entertained through technology due to busy lifestyles. Furthermore, adults regularly rush children to adopt mature roles and prepare them for their future learning, often too early than they are intellectually ready.

Before we expect children to participate in formal learning, it is essential that they are provided with opportunities to become involved in fun, flexible and stimulating play. At Heywood Nursery we strive to provide a fun and engaging early years curriculum, where children are encouraged to become active participants in their own play, building on individual interests and ideas, in order to become captivated in their learning experiences.

When children engage in self-initiated, spontaneous play they are learning at the highest level. They are learning how to make choices, generate decisions, negotiate with their peers, setting their own goals and finding new ways to communicate their ideas and imaginations. As children mature and develop, play becomes more sophisticated and it is only then they develop the skills to concentrate, focus and communicate effectively. Once children are secure in these skills, play can then become an integral part of the academic learning experience.

We pride ourselves in promoting and supporting learning through play from the child’s first moments with us. Emphasis is placed upon incorporating play into our daily routines, where adult interactions are paramount in order to support and extend the child’s self-confidence, develop strong language skills and co-operation, all of which are needed for peer interactions and future learning.

We recognise play as a powerful learning tool, where opportunities need to be fun and meaningful, where creativity, independence, social skills and problem-solving skills can all be enhanced. Through offering small class sizes and knowledgeable adults facilitating learning, here at Heywood Nursery, play spaces are challenging and motivational offering endless possibilities for children’s creativity and imagination to flourish.

Children are given opportunities to play both inside and outside in all weathers, to develop their self-confidence, problem solving skills, nurture their imagination and stimulate their senses. Children explore and gain knowledge of the natural environment during unstructured play sessions, and our weekly Forest Schools sessions with our specialist teacher, give children the freedom to explore, interact and collaborate with others.

At Heywood Prep, whilst we recognise the importance of providing the foundations for when children move onto formal schooling, our focus is on providing rich play opportunities, where children develop the skills and knowledge to become resilient, independent learners. Without these early opportunities for play, relationships and communications in later learning can sometimes become problematic.

It is important to reconsider our outlook on children’s learning and development and remember, learning through play provides the building blocks for future learning.