“Our real problem is – what is the goal of education? Are we forming children that are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try developing creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?”

—  Jean Piaget, psychologist and child development theorist

While reading textbooks and mastering the school syllabus are important, it’s also important to discover new knowledge and skills. And this can be done by, believe it or not—playing.

Understanding play-based learning, free play, and guided play

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If you find that your child is keener on playing games than reading books, don’t be worried. Play actually plays a huge part in a child’s brain development. Through play, a child can pick up new skills and learn something new every day.

Play-based learning is a pedagogical approach that focuses on using play as a method to promote multiple areas of children’s development and learning. It is one of the most natural ways for children to learn and explore new things. There is increasing evidence that play-based learning contributes greatly to children’s social and cognitive development.

The traditional way of learning is not as effective as people may think it is. In fact, it was found that traditional learning methods further reduce children’s motivation to learn and negatively impact their behavioural adjustment. This is because children learn best when they interact with their study materials. For these reasons, play-based learning is crucial for children’s development.

There are multiple types of play-based learning, but the most common ones are free play and guided play. Free play is child-directed and is internally motivated while guided play is supported by adults and is mostly tailored towards a specific goal. Seemingly, both free play and guided play contribute differently to a child’s development. Let’s find out more about the differences between the two.

The differences between learning through free play and guided play

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1) Free Play

Free play allows children to overcome problems by quickly coming up with solutions and provides them with the skills to empathise with others. It is highly effective in developing their social competence and self-regulation skills. Through playing make-believe, the unstructured design of free play grants them the opportunity to find their interest, follow it, and build an environment suitable for them.

As parents, your role in this is to provide them with the necessary tools, space, and time. You should also support them and acknowledge their creativity for free play can boost their confidence, promote independence, and improve well-being, spatial skills, and executive functioning.

2) Guided Play 

Different from the unstructured design of free play, in guided play, both adults and children are needed to initiate the experience. What this means is that children will be the ones deciding what to do and how to do them. While adults need to interact with the children, they must not direct the children’s actions.

Guided play is linked to higher gains in literacy and numeracy. And because of its structured design, it enables children to achieve more than one goal by encouraging them to learn through asking questions and suggesting solutions when working together with adults.

All in all, play-based learning gives children plenty of opportunities to strategise, make and adjust plans, discover new ideas, and work in teams. Through play, children can enhance their critical executive function skills and improve their memory. Teachers and parents are highly encouraged to include play in the syllabus to ensure that children enjoy and appreciate learning. 

Understanding the importance of play-based learning, our classes at Young Engineers Singapore include playing materials for every subject. In our classes, children will learn to build a functioning robot using LEGO blocks and more. For more information about our enrichment programmes, get in touch with us now or email us at admin@youngengineers.sg.