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Integrating playful learning into the preschool classroom

Playful learning is when young children are taught lessons through hands-on or interactive activities. These activities allow children to fully engage with the subject matter as opposed to traditional worksheets or other teaching methods. Playful learning makes education meaningful to young children, which is a feeling that may last throughout their lifetime.

Proponents of this preschool learning style explain that children do not effectively learn through traditional classroom teaching approaches. Erika Christakis, an author and early childhood educator, is a supporter of playful learning. She points to holiday-themed crafts and flash cards as an example. Educators center their year's curriculum around these methods simply because they have always taught this way.

In a recent interview, Christakis said that learning relationship skills is one of the most important skills preschoolers should learn at their age. Social skills allow children to grow with their peers, challenge themselves, and each other, learn to address conflict, and aspire to new goals.

Traditionally, social-emotional skills have been kept separate from academic skills. However Christakis says that interacting with peers and teachers is an important component of academic development. Instead of sitting still and doing worksheets all day, when teachers encourage their students to participate in meaningful play, they are pushing them to think critically and solve small-world problems.

For example, instead of children only listening to a lesson or completing a worksheet about animals, set up a play station. At this station, children can take care of different stuffed animals as a veterinarian or zookeeper. This will not only help them learn the names and attributes of these creatures, but to care for others as well.

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