How Children Learn

Playing in the classroomYoung children learn best by doing. It requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in. In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses (touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and looking).

In using real materials, such as blocks, and trying out their ideas, children learn about sizes, shapes, and colors, and they notice relationships between things. In time, children develop symbolic thinking, using familiar, similarly shaped objects, such as blocks or sticks, to represent for more complex or new objects, such as hamburgers or airplanes.

Gradually children become more and more able to use abstract symbols, like words, to describe their thoughts and feelings. They learn to “read” pictures which are symbols of real people, places and things. This exciting development in symbolic thinking takes place during the pre-school years as children play.

Play provides the foundation for academic or “school” learning. It is the preparation children need before they learn highly abstract symbols such as letters (which are symbols for sounds) and numbers (which are symbols for number concepts).

Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the work of young children.