While it may seem like they’re just causing mess and mayhem, play is one of the most important ways kids learn. On a small scale, play helps how we interact with other people, teaches vital social skills, and even helps mathematical skills like counting that are normally taught in a classroom. Best of all – kids are always much happier to learn anything if it’s part of a game!
From the surprising benefits of learning how to play marbles to getting creative with technology – here are some simple ways to get started!
Back to Basics
You don’t need to break the bank buying toys for kids. In fact, sometimes they’re happier playing with the cardboard box than the expensive toy that came inside it! Cheap, old-fashioned games like learning how to play marbles, hopscotch or skipping rope can teach teamwork, hand-eye coordination, and even classroom skills like counting. There’s plenty of space to be imaginative and test the boundaries of each game, all within the safety of play.
Even a simple game like marbles is more beneficial than you might think – with the aim being to hit other marbles out of a ring drawn either with chalk or marked out with string, they’re actually getting fairly advanced lessons in physics and geometry! Kids have to calculate just the right angle, force, and velocity for the perfect shot. It’s a great rainy day game, and you can find more detailed instructions on how to play marbles here.
Of course, kids can also learn huge amounts if you just let them go with the flow. Lay out art materials or shaving cream (a great mess-free way for kids to get stuck in with their hands, especially if they’re wearing their best clothes!) and then let them choose what they feel like doing that day.
Alternatively, arrange a playdate and leave them to their own devices, even if there is a chorus of ‘I’m bored.’ It’ll force them to be creative, a kind of play that’s particularly good for developing social skills. Having to co-operate teaches kids to respect and empathise with another person’s point of view.
Getting Creative with Technology
Technology is often seen as the easy ‘babysitting’ option for when the adults are exhausted and just need some quiet time. But it can be educational and playful too. Try a basic programming game or use some old clothes and a hand-held camera to set up your own movie-making studio, where your kids and their friends can act, direct, and produce their own films. If they’re really enthusiastic about it, there are plenty of courses for them to take during the holidays – an ideal mix of fun and learning while you’re at work.
Finally, it also pays to ask them what they’d like to learn. Sometimes it can be tricky to recognise budding skills in your kids that are different to yours, or that weren’t even possible when you were growing up! You never know what skills they may end up needing in the future.