Let's Play!

It has been said that play is child’s work. Do you agree? I do. 

Vygotsky’s famous statement emphasizes this: “Play creates a zone of proximal development of the child. In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” (Vygotsky, 1978:102) 

Maria Montessori also gave her word about play: “The most important role that play can have is to help children to be active, make choices and practice actions to mastery. They should have experience with a wide variety of content (art, music, language, science, math, social relations) because each is important for the development of a complex and integrated brain. Play that links sensory-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting from brain development.”

According to Montessori, the essential dimensions of play are:

  • Voluntary, enjoyable, purposeful and spontaneous
  • Creativity expanded using problem solving skills, social skills, language skills and physical skills
  • Helps expand on new ideas
  • Helps the child to adapt socially
  • Helps to thwart emotional problems
As you can see, play is understood to be the most effective vehicle for a young child’s learning.

Play in a bilingual context can be an exciting experience which leads to language and cultural learning. I have often heard comments such as, "How can children learn when they are having fun?" or "Children should sit in their seats and pay attention when learning." However, I have found that playful activities stimulate children and promote learning.

Consider what happens in a child's mind when they listen to a song in another language, move to the rhythm of a foreign rhyme, or engage in a game that requires them to speak a foreign language? Games, songs, chants, movement, fun activities do compliment language acquisition. 

As adults, what are our roles? We have to provide opportunities for meaningful play, to engage children in purposeful experiences in a rich environment so they continue to learn. Playing with your children contributes to their physical, emotional and intellectual development. Play situations tend to create meaningful and interesting contexts for children, in which children can become motivated to communicate in the new language both non-verbally and verbally.  They are able to practice and rehearse familiar words and short phrases and begin the process of combining new words together. A teacher (or mother, or leader) who joins in and talks through everyone’s actions and ideas - i.e. models the use of language – when children are not yet able or ready to talk for themselves, provides language teaching in a meaningful context.

Play is important.  It helps your children to:

  • Have a sense of well being and good self-esteem
  • Deal with tragedies and setbacks
  • Have a sense of control
  • Make good relationships with you and his peers
  • Understand and care about others
  • Be creative and imaginative, think and have ideas, develop concentration
  •  Be physically co-ordinated.
Language is a vehicle for communication. A new language will be easier for younger children.  And remember laughing and excitement are an integral part of the lesson. Play almost always promotes excitement, enjoyment, and a relaxing atmosphere.

So...what you are waiting for? Let’s play!

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