A child’s world is full of curiosity, and its fertile mind is always seeking answers. “Curiosity is the very basis of education,” a quote by Arnold Edinborough emphasizes the significance of nurturing curiosity in an individual. A child’s ways of communicating with the outside world are not similar to that of an adult. They use games and sports to explore their internal and external worlds. They use it to explore their potentials, test their strength and weaknesses, imbibe information about their surroundings, and learn the ways of the world. Therefore, play is fun and a crucial tool to ensure overall development and well-being.
Learning to play and playing to learn
Learning through playing is a self-sustained process as it preserves and strengthens the natural willingness to learn. Play theorists Brian Sutton-Smith believes that children are naturally born with a neural overcapacity, which withers away if not used well. Sutton-Smith adds, “A child who is not being stimulated, by being played with, and who has few opportunities to explore his or her surroundings, may fail to link up fully those neural connections and pathways which will be needed for later learning.”(1997).
Play might seem dispensable but is utterly necessary for facilitating the learning process in a childhood. Play reportedly enhances the process of early development in children from 33% to 67% by increasing adjustment, improving language skills, and reducing social and emotional hardships (Fisher 1992).
Structured vs. Unstructured Play
Structured plays are guided and instructed by elders, where children have to perform some form of activities that are primarily cognitive or physical. It doesn’t have to be formal or intensely structured; these games are often goal-directed yet freely chosen by the child.
Types of structured plays include:
Benefits of structured play:
Unstructured plays or free plays are intrinsically motivated and personally directed plays, usually unguided by rules. The child has unlimited possibilities to come up with, and these games cater to the creative minds of the children. When children get the opportunity to choose games that appeal to them freely, their motivation levels are higher; hence it facilitates learning, says researcher Tassoni.
Researchers and educators believe that unstructured games help the child explore their surroundings in-depth, promoting a better understanding of cause and effect relationships. A study found that kids of 4-5 years explored novel toys to discover how they worked (Schulz, 2007). Exploratory plays also sustain the inquisitive nature of a child.
Types of non-structured plays include:
Benefits of non-structured play:
Structured and unstructured plays, when combined, can help facilitate a child’s overall social, emotional, and cognitive development. Depriving children of playing will invariably lead to suffering.