We’ve talked about why children play and the benefits of play, but the idea still persists that if it’s too much fun, children are not learning.
However, the evidence suggests the opposite. Research shows that children actually learn through play. Play is learning.
Internationally renowned expert on early childhood and play, Tina Bruce, outlines in her book, Early Childhood Education, the 12 features of free-flow play:
1. Children use the first-hand experiencesthey have had in life during play.
2. Children keep control as they play. Play does not bow to pressure to conform to external rules, outcomes, targets or adult-led projects.
3. Play is a process. It has no products.
4. Children choose to play. It is intrinsically motivated and spontaneous.
5. Children rehearse their possible futures in their play. Play helps children learn to function in advance of what they can do in the present.
6. Play has the potential to take children into a world of pretend, beyond the here and now, in the past, present and future, and it transforms them into different characters.
7. Play can be solitary, and this sort of play can be very deep.
8. Children can play together or with an adult, in companionship (parallel play), associatively or cooperatively in pairs or groups.
9. Play can be initiated by a child or an adult, but adults need to respect the child’s play agenda by not insisting that the adult agenda dominates the play.
10. Child-led play is characterised by deep concentration.
11. In play, children try out their recent learning, mastery, competence and skills, and consolidate them.
12. Play makes children into whole people, able to keep balancing their lives in a fast-changing world.
Tina Bruce (2015) Early Childhood Education 5th Edition