Bubbles Academy Logo

Ignite Wonder for your child with a FREE TRIAL class! JOIN US

art + music class for preschoolers at Bubbles Academy in Gold Coast

Laugh, Learn, and Thrive: How Play-Based Learning Sparks a Lifelong Passion for Learning

Did you know that playtime has an integral role in helping your preschoolers learn about the world around them? You might expect schools to focus on outcomes like learning the alphabet, numerical orders, and reading or writing basic words. Preschools do teach this, but they take education a step further: Many primary education institutions incorporate play-based learning to improve how their students interact with new experiences, people, and concepts. 

A lesson structured with play in mind not only helps preschoolers grasp these academic concepts but also fosters a broader understanding of their relationships, emotions, and how to interact with various environments. Our educators at Bubbles Academy closely examine play-based education in this blog post.

What Is Play-Based Learning?

As the name implies, play-based education or learning uses playtime as a teaching tool. A preschool teacher develops a classroom layout or lesson plan that promotes interactive learning activities to help students grasp various concepts. Although these activities might include light structure to ensure the class reaches required academic goals, they also involve an open-ended framework that allows the children to craft personal lessons and core experiences. 

An example of play-based education involves the teacher designing their classroom with multiple play stations, like a kitchen area, a space for arts and crafts, and a miniature library. Each station serves an essential purpose:

  • Kitchen: Children can experiment with household work, roles, and communication in a mock home setting. 
  • Arts and crafts: A child can examine how different materials work together to accomplish a goal, such as a sculpture, collage, or painting. They can also learn about their personal preferences. 
  • Library: Children’s books featuring simple words, illustrations, and alphabetical associations help children master more practical academic skills like reading, reading comprehension, and, eventually, writing. 

Six Stages of Learning Through Play

Mildred Parten, a reputable researcher on childhood development, theorized that playtime does more than drain your child’s excess energy. Educational play strategies in the classroom and at home help your child advance through the six stages of learning through play:

  1. Unoccupied play: From the time your child is born until they hit three or four months, they explore how their body works, moves, and occupies space. 
  2. Solitary play: From three months to two years old, your child begins the journey of solitary play. They engage with their toys alone, learning how objects interact with each other and themself. 
  3. Onlooker play: As your child transitions into their toddler years, they carefully observe how other people interact with objects and each other.
  4. Parallel play: Your child eventually transitions into parallel play throughout their late toddler experience. They interact with other children their age by playing alongside each other without much collaboration. 
  5. Associative play: Once your child consistently interacts with other children, they have entered the associative play stage. While they may not collaborate directly with others, they communicate, share, and experiment with the activities they see others perform from three to four years old.
  6. Cooperative play: Finally, your child begins collaborating with others between four and five years of age. They participate in roleplay, idea exchanges, and conflict resolution amongst their peers during this time. 

These stages engage your child in various hands-on learning experiences, creating a foundation for what they’ll gain from play-based learning in a preschool setting

Understanding How Play-Based Education Works

When early childhood educators implement playful learning approaches within their lesson plans, they typically focus on specific elements every child needs to thrive as they grow. These elements help children communicate, understand, and retain information and enjoy healthy interactions with peers and adults. 

An educational foundation based on play sets many preschoolers up for long-term success.  

Play Is a Learning Opportunity

What educational areas might your preschooler’s teacher place at the center of their class layout or lesson plan? Although a learning institution might provide a blueprint for a child-centered play-based curriculum, a particular teacher’s approach may vary depending on their teaching style. However, your preschooler should improve in the following areas:

  • Linguistics: Your child might learn new communication methods from other students and their teacher. They may pick up and apply basic alphabetical skills that help them read and understand written words later. 
  • Cognition: Through cooperative roles and creative play for education, your child may develop problem-solving skills and resourcefulness to help them manage future conundrums. 
  • Social skills: Children need to interact with peers of the same age to find their place within various social settings. An open-ended structure allows them to freely interact with each other on a preschooler’s social level. 
  • Emotional development: Most preschoolers haven’t quite mastered the art of emotional regulation to the degree of an adult. Learning through play allows them to identify situations and things that evoke positive and negative emotions before discovering how to manage them constructively. 
  • Physical growth: Even preschoolers must refine their movements, learning how force influences impact. Your child may pick up pertinent fine motor skills and better understand the consequences of gravity, weight, and how their body changes over time. 
  • Creativity: As children grow, they learn how color and texture can influence mood and perception. Creative endeavors in a classroom allow them to learn how different colors and supplies work to create their first masterpieces!

Challenges and Benefits of Play-Based Learning

Play-based education can help most children develop a love of learning that will carry them through the rest of their school years. However, every child has varying needs and comfort levels. Consider a different educational environment if you or your preschool teacher notice clear challenges or resistance. 

Your child might thrive in a different, non-play-based learning environment if:

  • They readily meet milestones or exceed under structured environments.
  • They display consistent discomfort when engaging with play-based models
  • Your child has special needs that are better met by an educational specialist

Bubbles Academy Nurtures Your Child’s Love of Learning

If you think play-based learning sounds best for your child, enroll them at Bubbles Academy in Chicago and Illinois. Call 312-944-7677 to find the most convenient location for you. Build a sturdy educational foundation for your budding student.

About The Author

Natalie Monterastelli

Natalie Monterastelli

I am a parent, teaching artist, writer, and entrepreneur who believes in the power of the Arts to help us connect, learn, and grow. My goal is to ignite wonder and compassion through my business (Bubbles Academy), nonprofit...

Learn More