Family Fun

Simple Formula For Purposeful Play

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Purposeful play is a simple, effective way to help children develop, learn, and grow. Using play intentionally is just one more tool in your toolbox as a parent. These 4 Principles of Purposeful Play can be implemented as soon as today!

Play is such a natural, healthy part of childhood. I’ve traveled to many different countries and worked with kids; the language may change, but one thing is consistent: kids love to play.

But did you know play is also an invaluable tool in your child’s learning and development?

Play is such a natural, healthy part of childhood. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll be able to see kids playing. But did you know: it’s also an invaluable tool in your child’s learning and development!

A peek at the Purposeful Play download

    Children learn and grow through play and exploration. By providing them with tools and opportunities to experience the world in an exciting way, we help them explore their creativity, develop critical thinking skills, and encourage self-expression. 

    From expanding vocabulary to improving literacy skills, the power of play should never be underestimated.

    In fact, research shows that when a child is having fun, they are more receptive to new information AND they retain it better!

    So, how do you make play impactful and educational? Let’s first take a look at the importance of playing with purpose.

    child playing with building bricks and smiling

    What is Purposeful Play?

    It’s important to understand that purposeful play is intentional. 

    From the materials used to the environment in which the play occurs, we can set the stage to encourage optimal learning in a fun, encouraging way. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or caregiver, you can integrate play-based learning into their daily routines or curriculum to help them strengthen their physical, social, emotional, and academic skills.

    How is Play Beneficial?

    Learning through play in a safe, familiar environment offers children limitless opportunities to broaden their imaginations while being encouraged to experiment their surroundings. Intentional play promotes a child’s ability to soak in knowledge at a faster rate, collaborate more effectively with peers and caregivers, and learn to adapt to various situations through problem solving.

    How is Play Educational?

    Think back to when you were growing up. What fond memories of play come to mind? Perhaps you and a sibling loved to pretend grocery shopping with your basket of plastic fruits and veggies so many of us had. Or maybe you snuck a few boxed and canned goods from the pantry into your mini shopping cart and wheeled around the house. You may have even had a little cash register that chimed, mom’s expired checks, or colorful play money just for the occasion.

    All the while, your creativity was flowing, critical thinking skills were put to the test, and you were even broadening those math skills. But as a child, did you ever suspect your playtime was educational?

    Play opens a child’s mind to learning without even realizing it. As they explore, children utilize their senses to familiarize themselves with their environment. They come to their own conclusions by developing their problem-solving skills. And by engaging in repetitive play, it allows them to reinforce and implement everything they’re discovering.

    mom and child playing with plastic letters while sitting on the floor

    The 4 E’s of Purposeful Play

    Our children are absorbing the world through playful interactions. Stimulating young minds through intentional play is effective and sets them up for success. Think of it as building a strong foundation for future learning. By implementing these 4 E’s, you can set the stage for learning:

    • Engagement
    • Exploration
    • Expansion
    • Expression

    We created the The 4Es of Play to help parents navigate what is (and isn’t!) involved in purposeful play. You are your child’s biggest support and you can do this

    What Purposeful Play Isn’t

    It’s important to note that while engagement, exploration, expansion and expression are all a part of the purposeful play equation, there are a few things that are not a part of this simple yet impactful formula.

    Purposeful play isn’t expensive.

    Expensive doesn’t need to be a part of this. While there are some truly lovely toys out there that cost as much as my first car, they aren’t necessary at all. Kids thrive with simplicity and can make tents out of bedsheets, drums out of your kitchen supplies, and entire worlds when given access to the rest of your home!

    Just look at this Spring Soup Sensory Bin idea! All things you have on hand or right in your vicinity, and hours of play come with it.

    Or try out this Hop Like A Frog game that refines gross motor development in younger kids.

    Purposeful play isn’t exacting.

    Exacting isn’t a part of the equation either. Purposeful play doesn’t have to be demanding on your time or effort. In fact, while a lot of intentional play involves interaction with you, a good portion of it will also involve you stepping back and letting your child explore and engage with various tools or surroundings, also.

    Purposeful play doesn’t require expertise.

    And lastly, you don’t have to be an expert at everything. If your child is interested in dinosaurs, you don’t have to be a paleontologist to help them learn through play. Read a few books and turn them loose in the sandbox to dig up the hidden dino figures you planted for them. Or set up this imagination play pack for dinosaur loving kiddos!

    With parenting as hard as it already is, purposeful play is a like a breath of fresh air. It’s not one more thing to add to your list of stressful “to do” items; instead it’s a simply and easy way to help your kids as they learn and grow.

    Let’s leave the expensive, exacting, and overwhelming expertise out of this particular formula!

    Playing with Purpose in Action

    Let’s take a closer look at the 4 E’s in action, while examining how they go hand-in-hand with learning and developing vital skills.

    Creating a scavenger hunt in the yard or around the neighborhood is a wonderful way to encourage purposeful play. Pack up a little bag for your outdoor adventure and get ready to witness their minds soak up every moment while they learn something new. Here are just a few examples of purposeful play at work:

    • ·  Literacy skill building is perfect for every age on a scavenger hunt. From hand-drawn picture flashcards to decoding riddles, your kids will be engaged in the hunt while helping each other build vocabulary and literacy.
    • ·  Social skills are strengthened through teamwork during a hunt while expression can be seen through their reactions, communication, thought process, and relationship building.
    • ·  Comprehension and listening skills are required throughout your adventure. By presenting rules, instructions, and giving helpful hints along the way, you create a safe and successful outing where they can learn through play and exploration.
    • ·  Gross and fine motor skills are always an important focus and getting some fresh air and exercise is perfect! Encourage them to expand their activity by making new connections. If racing to find the first ladybug is on their list, challenge them to see what other little creatures are in the area or determine what makes the environment a great landing spot for the ladybug.

    Ready to start boosting your child’s learning skills and fuel their imaginations? Help your little ones grow by playing with purpose.

    A peek at the Purposeful Play download

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