The importance of play for primary school children

By Aimée Chiat, Founder/Director, Head Teacher

The importance of learning through play in Early Childhood Education has been highlighted for many years, but it seems that once children reach primary school level they are immediately expected to sit at desks and learn from books or other visual stimuli.

While technology has improved matters somewhat, allowing children to engage with the internet, Smartboards and iPads and the like, a key component of learning is still missing. Most children, and adults learn best through experience and experimenting. Open-ended playing, where children are given specific toys to play with but without instructions, affords huge learning opportunities far beyond the reach of a textbook or computer game.

At Salisbury House we incorporate large amounts of play in our learning. Skills such as spatial awareness, spatial perception and position in space are all needed in order for children to play together. Besides being an occupational therapist’s dream, many academic skills are honed during play too.

The possibilities of learning through play are endless, but perhaps the most important skills that are practiced are social skills. Children learn to take turns, share, negotiate and compromise. Simple things like speaking respectfully to one another and not grabbing are also important to point out when the excitement gets too much.

As Dr Peter Gray, psychology researcher and scholar put it, “Perhaps play would be more respected if we called it something like ‘self-motivated practice of life skills’, but that would remove the lightheartedness from it and thereby reduce its effectiveness. So we are stuck with the paradox. We must accept play’s triviality in order to realise its profundity.”

Visit the Salisbury House website or email for more information.

• Published in the PDF edition of the December 2021/January 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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