Discovering what children learn through their play is not always as easy as one might think. Perhaps it is because teachers or parents get distracted by the mess or noise. Perhaps it is because one can get in the mindset that learning is supposed to be a ‘sit down and focus’ time.
To discover what children are learning through their play takes a little practice and understanding of developmental domains. Developmental domains simply describe the different types of growth and learning that unfold in preschoolers as they play. The four primary areas are social development, physical development, emotional development, and cognitive development.
The photos posted below are of two little girls playing with a plastic pumpkin bowl filled with pumpkin seed cards that have numbers on them.
Socially the two little girls are talking, sharing, taking turns, and building their friendship.
Emotionally the two little girls are encouraging and being kind to each other through their tone of voice which gives them confidence and reassurance that they are doing something good and fun.
Cognitively the little girls are reinforcing their number recognition, their ability to sort, count, and match.
Physically the little girls are using their fine motor skills to pick up the pumpkin cards and their large motor skills to reach down into the bucket.
A simple game and the freedom to explore and communicate through their play has brought about valuable learning opportunities. The key for teachers is to recognize what is being learned by observing and encouraging preschoolers to play.