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The gift of play

I've done a lot of research over the years into how children learn and develop and I've learnt over and over again that there is no one specific way. There is no definite way to teach to ensure that all the children learn and develop in the way they need to.

There are seven learning styles (Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social and Solitary) and until recently I've always believed that children usually fitted into one or more of these and that once we discover which one(s), the rest is easy. However, more recently I am seeing the benefits of outdoor play and exploration really come into fruition and it's got me thinking about the ones who don't fit into those seven boxes. The children who can learn in any of those ways but find it much much harder and what happens when this isn't picked up on very early. I bet we can all think of someone we have met along the way whose school life would have been much easier had they been able to learn in an entirely different way altogether. These days there is so much pressure on children and young people to perform well in tests to prove that they have achieved what they have been told they need to achieve. I don't like thinking too deeply into the damage it does to their mental health because quite frankly it terrifies me but surely there is another way for children to achieve without being compared to each other in their phonics tests and SATs.

We are quite lucky that in preschool there is much less pressure but there's certainly a standard that is expected.

Children need to be school ready, socially and emotionally as well as all the developmental requirements.

I have decide to enrol onto a play therapy course to give me a better approach to ensuring ALL children are school ready when they leave us. Not just the children who are performing as the guidelines say they should. I want to see opportunities for development for every child in my preschool and at the moment I am ill equipped to do that.

You may have seen articles and news bulletins on Forest Schools. These are predominantly outdoor schools where the children make their own toys from wood and there is no sign of coloured plastic anywhere. The results are incredible and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that children who attend forest schools are probably mentally much healthier. I'm not forest school qualified (though it is on my list of things to achieve) and I wouldn't yet be comfortable giving my little ones the tools to make their own toys but I strongly believe that if we can provide as much opportunity for learning as we can outside, whatever the weather then we are well on our way to achieving similar results.

I recently did a little experiment and every day I took our learning resources outside and watched what happened. I noticed a change in the children's attitude to learning and their higher tolerance of each other as well as their approach to conflict being much calmer if even necessary at all. It was fascinating and scary all at the same time.

I will work tirelessly on this 'Play Therapy' course I am enrolling on and will hopefully be more aware of ways to use play in order to support children's development and promote good mental health.

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