Have you ever wondered why we use play-based learning at CNS?

When deciding where to send your children to preschool, you should look at the philosophies of the school. Many families have already secured their child’s spot in a preschool, for next year, but some are still deciding where to enroll their children as this year progresses. One thing that we emphasis when choosing a preschool is if the type of program a school offers fits your family’s philosophy.

Here at Community Nursery School, we place a large emphasis on play-based learning.

Play-based learning is an approach that when implemented in the early years of primary school can prepare children academically, socially, and psychologically for the rest of their schooling years.

In fact, research has shown that play-based learning improves children’s developmental and academic learning outcomes. It also sets a child up for success by teaching them essential skills like socialization, exploration, discovery, experimentation, and problem-solving.

What is Play-Based Learning?

After spending years working with different age groups, CNS Director Beth Fuce came to the conclusion that children are naturally inclined to play, making play-based programs the greatest way to teach other skills while letting children roam free with their imaginations.

When you use play as the context for learning, it allows children to subconsciously use their imaginations and innocense to teach them how to explore, discover, experiment, and solve problems in a creative way.

Play-based learning encourages a child to use their own brain to make decisions, which teaches them how to think analytically at a young age. We’ve seen great success at CNS with this approach, as it encourages children to do what they do best — play — while simultaneously teaching them valuable lessons.

This approach involves both teachers supported and child-initiated learning. Through this method, a teacher encourages a child’s learning and inquiry through interactions that will aim to expand the child’s thinking to higher levels.

Also, whilst children are drawing, or playing dress-up, a teacher may pose questions that will encourage problem-solving, hypothesizing and prediction. It allows children to experience hands-on learning that many schools are lacking these days. Not only this, but it is a process that encourages a child’s growth when it comes to literacy and analytical thinking, which will prepare them for Kindergarten.

Although we can rave about the successes children have had with play-based learning at Community Nursery School, research also funds that implementing play-based learning in a child’s early years sets them up for long-term success.

Play-Based Learning Versus Direct Instruction?

Over the years, learning methods have changed a bit, but play-based learning remains a traditional, and constant method. We use it at CNS because of the positive lasting impact we have seen in our own students, as well as the feedback from parents.

Two main positives of play-based learning over direct instruction:

1. It offers long-term benefits and effects – Excellent play-based preschool programs will expose children to problem-solving and learning through self-initiated activities and teacher guidance. These are skills that are generally taught in kindergarten so that students.

Meanwhile, teacher-centered approaches focus on teaching and guiding children in basic academic skills. This is probably the more traditional approach, where teachers constantly instruct the children and leave little room for self-discovery. When the children reach Kindergarten, teachers will start to allow them to try to problem-solve on their own, which is hard for kids who haven’t been encouraged to do so in the past.

2. Motivates learning in a positive way – Research has also suggested that play-based learning is a more effective approach in primary school programs as well. These studies demonstrate that a child’s learning outcome is higher in play-based programs as opposed to a child’s learning outcomes in direct-instruction school.

Further studies also concluded that children in direct-instruction programs have experienced negative aftermath because of a negative correlation to learning. This type of learning ultimately leads a student to become less motivated to learn, to develop noticeable behavior problems, as well as being prone to stress. These cases demonstrate that this type of learning is only a temporary method, as the child’s future teachers will have to teach them new methods.

Play-based learning at CNS

In each room, there are centers for math manipulatives, reading circles, writing and coloring tables alongside science tables, kinesthetics, and sensory tables. We spend time singing songs, learning and writing poetry, finger play with flannel boards, role-playing, and acting out stories.

All of these activities are fun for the kids, but also teach them valuable lessons. Each day we complete lessons that are based on our 3-year curriculum program that are both interesting and educational for the kids.

What can children achieve through play-based programs?

Just like any traditional approach, play-based early years program are focused on two things: teaching and learning. Children in these programs experience free play and guided play with intentional teaching. As explained above, this type of free play is spontaneous and directed by the child, as the teacher is only involved as a co-player in the activities.

Both these programs have benefits for children’s learning, and can be used in different ways. A play-based environment fosters exploration, discovery, positive attitudes, and social skills, all things we focus on at Community Nursery School.

1. Play-based learning encourages inquiries, exploration, and discovery. Involvement in play-based programs stimulates a child’s enthusiasm for exploration and discovery while simultaneously motivating children to question things in a healthy way, promoting concentration and focus.

Involvement also encourages them to engage in flexible and higher-level of thinking processes that are considered essential for the 21st-century learner. This sets up a preschooler for future academic success, as opposed to a child who hasn’t experienced this. These skills can include processes for analysis, problem-solving, evaluating, creativity, and applying knowledge.

2. Play-based learning supports positive attitude. Play-based learning also helps support a positive attitude towards learning, as opposed to a negative one. Children will begin to imagine, become curious, enthusiastic and persistent to learn more. It will foster a positive spirit around learning, instead of a negative one, which can be seen in many children who think of learning as a chore.

3. Play-based learning increases social interactions with teachers. Its inquiry-based nature of play can be seen through the social interactions between children and teachers. Teachers play an active role in leading children’s interactions in the play or program, and this is overlooked.

Our teachers at CNS support children in developing their social skills such as sharing, cooperation, responding to ideas, and resolving conflicts in and out of the classroom. Teachers may also use a child’s motivation and interest in exploring ideas and concepts. This way, children obtain and practice essential academic skills in a playful setting.

We have found that students who are in play-based classrooms tend to have an increased ability to share animated stories, as have multiple studies.

Play-Based Learning Prepares Children Up For Long-Term Success

When choosing a preschool for your child, it is important to decide not only what you want the outcome to be, but how you want your child to grow through the experience.

Traditional methods such as direct instruction and teacher-led learning methods have their position in educational contexts. However, various points of research, has shown the benefits and long-term effects of play-based programs for preschoolers and children.

In these programs, most of their time spent in play will be seen as essential for learning and not as a reward for good behavior. Thus, children will have a more active input into what and how they learn, developing their own learning methods at an early age.

Play-based programs for preschoolers and young children can offer a strong basis for long-term success academically and socially. We use play-based learning at Community Nursery School because these programs support the development and evolution of socially competent learners.

If you want to hear more about what we offer at Community Nursery School give us a call at 508-651-2555 or email us at info@cnswayland.org.

If you want to learn more about our school, check out one of our latest interviews with our mother and daughter duo that has fostered an encouraging learning environment for the last 55 years.