Play Better #7: Fun vs. Educational Play : Is Play-based Learning Possible?

 photo 7 1_zpsopjopcvv.jpgIt’s easy to be enticed by claims that a toy can teach your baby to read or learn basic arithmetic by 18 months old.  After all, the notion of getting such an early head start in the academic department  must definitely be compelling, given the intensity of competition in primary schools or even preschools these days. So is it time to stock up on flash cards and kiddie computers? And if you haven’t yet, will your child be left behind?

No, and no. It is absolutely true that a child’s levels of retention are at their peak in the formative years, but it’s also equally true that they do not need to be taught right now – at least, not like that. There are many ways of learning that surpasses the boundaries of traditional education: a child can learn to talk from listening to you, and from practicing her babbles and coos with you or even her favorite stuffed animal. He/she can learn to reach and grasp, crawl and walk, by having the time and freedom to explore her surroundings and experiment with trial and error. A child can even learn about the world, or practice problem-solving by observing her surroundings and human interaction around him/her.

The truth of the matter is, children do tend to learn better and more holistically when left to their own devices. Trusting the desire of young children to learn about their world, in their own exploratory way, is at the heart of play-based learning – and often, the simplest play aids are the most fun and the most educational. Blocks, stuffed toys, shape sorters, balls, rattles — they all build fundamental skills like eye-hand coordination, auditory discrimination, dexterity, basic concepts recognition, spatial awareness, and much more. More importantly and on an abstract level, play-based learning can also develop emotional regulation and social integration; and fosters brain development especially in areas of memory, language, academic learning and intellectual flexibility- and the best part is, none of it involves the traditional regurgitation of ABCs and 123s.

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Just a word of caution though,  this does not mean that we should allow the little ones to muck about without structure. Play-based learning still remains most effective when it involves adult guidance, as well as an ongoing evaluation of the play value of your toys in order to continually engage and stimulate learning during play.

Play-based Toys that We Love

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HUBELINO Marble Run
Building with Hubelino encourages spatial thinking, mathematical planning, creativity and the understanding of the principles of physics in the most fun-filled way possible. This fully modular and open-ended system offers endless design possibilities and limitless imaginative play, and was developed in collaboration with educationalists to extend both content and fun learning in traditional building-block play.

Manufactured to the highest precision in Germany using high-quality, phthalate-free, non-toxic abs plastic, Hubelino is 100% compatible with Duplo interlocking blocks by Lego, and recommended for lil’ builders as young as 3 years old – or extensible to be challenging even for tweens!

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AQUAPLAY
Aquaplay is the original award-winning water canal system developed by a preschool teacher in Sweden to help children explore the physics of water while having fun. Because it is a scalable modular system toy, additional canal parts or separate sets can be fully combined and integrated into megasets that can include locks, harbours and jetties that will provide hours of fun even for large groups of children. There are plenty learning opportunities: Set the water in motion with the paddlewheel and watch the little boats bob along the waves created through the canal. Reverse the cranking direction and the boats will move backwards. With Aquaplay, it is easier to demonstrate to the young ones the concept of floating and sinking, what makes a pump work, as well as general water properties that may otherwise be challenging to demonstrate to kids.

The endless opportunities for expansion and rebuilding help stimulate a child’s imagination and desire to continually experiment with water. Fully produced in Gnosjö, Sweden, all Aquaplay canal systems are made of non-toxic, recyclable phthalate-free plastic with unique rubber seal joints; and all products pass the EN71 and ASTM  toy safety standards. The CE-mark and the Secure Three-year Warranty are also clear distinctions of the brand excellent quality.

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