The joy of discovery, creativity, problem-solving, and social interactions pulse through the classroom where play-based learning is at work. Children are intrinsically drawn to learn through play. It is how they make sense of their world, test out their hypotheses about how things should work, and grow their imaginations. As early childhood developmental expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige states, “Play is the primary engine of human growth.”
At Oak Park Friends School, we believe that play-based learning fosters the development of children's skills, such as self-regulation, problem solving, social-emotional competence, curiosity, imagination, concentration, and original thinking which will benefit them throughout their lives.
Research shows that play-based learning not only enhances future academic and learning outcomes in children, but also encourages an enthusiasm and positive attitude toward learning. Studies also show that children learn best when they are actively engaged in an activity through movement and when all the senses are engaged. Having the opportunity to create, invent and interact with other children and teachers allows children to build ideas through play.
In a play-based learning classroom, you will notice children engaging in both free-play (child-initiated learning activities) and guided play (teacher-supported learning activities).
During free-play, children have an opportunity to explore different play materials and create with them. They may build a city out of blocks (math/engineering), create a maze for marbles to race down (physics), paint a piece of paper from top to bottom with glue (art) or organize a dinner for friends in the kitchen area (social-emotional/language).
Guided play describes interactions teachers have with the children to expand their thinking to higher levels. These interactions might include questions from the teacher which would encourage problem-solving (What do you think is making the building tip over?), prediction (If you put this marble in the water will it sink or float?) and hypotheses (Why does the fan make the feather move and not the brick?).
In addition, time spent at group/meeting time allows children to learn songs/rhymes, listen to books, act out favorite stories, and participate in movement activities. Finally, art activities presented by teachers tend to be process-oriented and not product oriented, which means teachers are more interested in offering the child a chance to explore the art materials offered and less interested in what the project looks like when it is completed.
Children at OPFS also have the opportunity to engage in play outside in all kinds of weather. Rainy weather play allows for puddle splashing, worm collecting, and poking sticks into mud. Snowy play allows for catching snowflakes on tongues, pulling friends on sleds, and piling up mountains of snow. Sunny weather allows for drawing with chalk on the sidewalk and caring for our garden by watering plants with spray bottles. All these activities bolster children’s appreciation for the environment and encourage a love of the natural world.
In a world where the pace of daily life has become increasingly busy and rushed, time spent at OPFS provides children with a chance to develop creativity, curiosity, social skills, and problem solving skills at an individualized, more appropriate pace through the joy of play while supported by caring teachers.
We strive to make our classrooms warm, welcoming, and home-like. We furnish them with a child's perspective in mind. so that they are spaces that feel safe and comfortable with books, toys, and materials that are visible and accessible for children to explore.