Playing While Learning: Tips for Children of All Needs and Abilities
Puzzles are helping children of all abilities learn through creative play. Creative Beginning’s Chalkboard Based Puzzles help students with varying learning needs and specific challenges. The full alphabet and number board, complete with chalkboard base, indented spaces and tracers encourages the development and strengthening of fine motor skills, writing ability, language, vocabulary, and more.
The value of play came to the forefront when I began teaching nearly 17 years ago. The play, however, doesn’t have to take away from learning; but compliment it. In fact, you can learn a lot about a child and their interests simply by watching them play. One of the most rewarding aspects of children at play is figuring out what your child’s interests are and building on that to teach them the skills needed moving forward.
For example, a child who is showing interest in cooking or baking with mom/dad, may benefit from having natural baking bowls, spoons, play kitchen etc. in their play space. Students showing excitement in making and conversing over coffee (mimic mom and dad), lead to a “Tim Hortons” coffee shop in our classroom, complete with cups, playdough donuts etc.
When my son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3, he was displaying poor fine motor difficulties and was getting very frustrated that he couldn’t hold a pencil or write the letter L (initially) in his name. I created a Name Puzzle for him with a chalkboard base and with the assistance of the indented spaces on the name puzzle and the use of the chalk, he learned to not only properly display a pencil grip but learned to print his name in 4 weeks on paper. He loved playing with his puzzle, while mommy, figured out a way for him to learn while playing.
Alphabet and number puzzles encourage the development of motor skills, language development and problem solving. Identification and printing in sequence is an important skill for the development of early literacy and numeracy skills.
Here are three fun play and learn ideas using puzzles:
Tactile formation allows more students to play and print their letters and numbers (a vital skill in early literacy and numeracy development).
- Children can use the indented space to trace the shapes of the letters and numbers with their fingers.
- Or they can use a piece of chalk to print the letter or number and then use a wet finger or paint brush to go over the chalk tracing.
Locomotor skills help kids learn directions how to get from one place to another.
- Use location (i.e., positional words) to describe where a letter/number should go. “B goes in the top row. Can you find where B fits in the top row of your puzzle?’
- Describe where letters go that your child is familiar with. “It goes next to the letter M like in your name. Can you find M? What letter goes next to M in your name?”
Playing I Spy is great for building your child’s vocabulary and understanding of language. Give clues to help the child find the letter or number you are referring to:
- Use images: “I spy the letter D. Letter D makes a sound like the Dog in this picture”
- Give clues about the letter’s shape: The letter has straight line or a curvy line.
The best part is that students are learning and playing. Naturally, providing a space with the boards, fosters that love of playing and printing of these components.
Although the term “play-based” may be misinterpreted as simply…here…” go play!” A vital part of this play-based approach is to provide the means to play and learn. Allow access to a variety of manipulatives and toys that provide an avenue for creativity and learning are essential for a child’s social, emotional, and physical growth.
Building on the excitement that comes with that play, fosters their confidence, and extends their learning in all areas. Expanding learning to incorporate all sorts of educational concepts (such as identifying, reading, writing, building words etc.) is even more rewarding! Fostering that love of play is vital all around!
The sky is the limit! Let’s PLAY and LEARN!