The Payoffs of Play

Think back to the moments when you felt most alive as a child. Chances are, they will probably revolve around some kind of play – the softness of sand underneath your feet, haphazardly mixing up ingredients to concoct an experiment, discovering how the guitar strings hum when you brush them, making ‘pies’ from a pile of wet earth, spraying your siblings with the garden hose.

What you probably didn’t realise when you engaged in these enjoyable moments, was that you were deep in the midst of acquiring crucial developmental skills.

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According to Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play in his TED talk: ‘Nothing lights up the brain like play. Three-dimensional play fires up the cerebellum, puts a lot of impulses into the frontal lobe — the executive portion — [and] helps contextual memory be developed.’

Or take it from Dr. Rachel E. White and her comprehensive paper The Power of Play: A Research Summary on Play and Learning: ‘As children play, they also develop critical cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills.’ She points out that ‘research has linked early object play with positive math and science outcomes’. It can help ‘children learn and practice cognitive skills including language, problem solving, creativity, and self-regulation’. Play also helps kids with coping skills, and emotional regulation. It contributes to the development of fine and gross motor skills and ‘builds the foundation for a lifetime of learning’.

Play, it turns out, is very important.

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At Belgrave Heights Christian School’s (BHCS) Early Learning Centre (ELC), we are all about play. From our exciting Bush Kinder program, to the constant ways our Kinder space shifts and changes to allow children to play with nature (gardening, building, constructing, water experimentation), we light up when we see the kids experience the joy of connecting with our wonderful world. We are firm believers in collaborative play, where our kids are enabled to follow the strands of their natural curiosity towards lasting learning. We love sharing these moments with our parents as well, with Learning Stories, our Facebook page and the daily photos that we make available so that families can take the journey along with their kids.

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We love our ELC and are so passionate about delivering a great service to our families, so when we received the Kindergarten Parent Survey 2017 Service Results, it was very encouraging. It turns out that you really love it too, with 100% results for parent satisfaction (compared with 89% in the Yarra Ranges, and 91% in Victoria), quality of education offered (92% Yarra Ranges, 93% Victoria) and valuing the importance of attending Kinder (95% Yarra Ranges, 95% Victoria).

It is interesting that our ELC parents reported that the strongest considerations for choosing our service was the importance of cultural links (our Christian approach) and our reputation. We were so pleased to hear that 100% of parents surveyed agreed that the Kinder helped prepare their child for the transition to school (88% Yarra Ranges, 90% Victoria) and would recommend our service to others (88% Yarra Ranges, 91% Victoria).

We are proud of our ELC program and enjoy observing the joy that learning through play brings the children each day. Children can teach us so much about the gift that it is to be human. What a privilege it is to participate in stoking a lifelong love of learning and curiosity about our marvellous universe.

The ELC program doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we want to celebrate the people who bring it to life: Kirsty Meese, Jane Bartholomeusz, Stephanie Cantwell, Sarah Jobson, and of course our parent volunteers. Thank you!


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