Learning through Play

Learning through play

One of the biggest ‘aha’ moments I had that carries me through as a mum is the concept of children learning through play. What this means is that as children are playing, experimenting and discovering, they learning how things work, and this shapes their understanding of the world around them.

The reason this was such a boost to me was that I struggled a bit (I know some of you do, too!) with messy play and also the normal mess that comes through play. Why did my boys insist on getting covered in substances whenever they played in the backyard? Why did they need to pull Styrofoam boxes to pieces (‘look mum, snow!’)? Why do they cover the bathroom in water and the lounge room in Lego and themselves in food?

This exploration and learning through play has changed over time: when my oldest son was a baby, he had a ‘pattern’ when he used to pick up something new: first he would suck on it, then he would drop it, then he would kick it. All of this gave him information about the object – so it was helping him learn as he played with it. And now, the learning continues in using up a roll of sticky tape at a time, picking up every stick we see on our walk to school, and still getting covered in paint/water/dirt!

On a beach holiday earlier in the year, I was thinking about what an amazing place this is for children to learn through play. First of all, it’s a safe place for them to do things they don’t normally get to do: run, throw sand, splash around in water or dig themselves into a pile of dirt. And I am not stressing out as a mum, because there is usually space to do those things without getting in people’s way, and they are not bringing it into my house every five minutes (!).

Here are some of the things kids are learning as they play on the beach (can you think of anymore?):

  • Heavy and light
  • Wet and dry
  • Float and sink
  • Build and destroy
  • Full and empty
  • Clean and dirty

They are using their creativity, growing an interest in the world and nature, and investigating new and unusual objects. It is a place for adventure, freedom and creating some of the most amazing memories for your children.

Wow! It makes me want to go straight back to the beach this weekend.

I encourage you to keep perspective as you are faced with challenges of the ‘mess’ that is made sometimes as children play. Think of all they are learning, give them guidelines and boundaries to make it safe (and contain the mess), and then you can enjoy the process of learning through play.

About The Author


Tanya lives in Canberra with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about helping women to live fulfilled, purposeful lives. She enjoys reading, cooking, craft and creating memorable moments for her family.

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