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What Are Our Children Learning If They Are Just Playing?

It’s common today for parents to believe that children must know how to count to 100 or be writing their names as they near school age. No one wants their child to "fall behind".

When parents spend time at their child’s early childhood centre, they see children playing all day long! What exactly are our children learning if they are "just playing"?

BestStart's 16 Areas of Play is a fantastic new interactive website that demonstrates how play sets our children up not just for school but also for life!

View our interactive resource:

"Children learn best through play. Play is at the heart of learning in New Zealand's early childhood curriculum. We want to share with parents what learning happens as their children play and how they can also use play to support their child’s growth and development", says Fiona Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of BestStart.

We created BestStart's 16 Areas of Play in partnership with our Professional Practice Leader, Dr Barbara Backshall, who has worked in early childhood education for over 40 years.

Barbara outlines all the numeracy, literacy, risk-taking and problem-solving skills our children develop through specific areas of play like puzzles, sand or water. For example:

- Finger painting and holding a brush sets the foundation for learning to write

- Through water play, children learn about evaporation and the weather

- Blocks teach perseverance as well as engineering concepts like balance, gravity and angles

- Carpentry is maths in action as children measure for size and count how many pieces of wood and other materials they may need.

We also share ideas for parents to continue this learning at home.

"BestStart's 16 Areas of Play will also be a handy tool for teachers to demonstrates the value of early learning to whānau. It makes learning and teaching visible, outlining how playing in early childhood education prepares children for the next stage of their learning journey", says Fiona.

"Parents and teachers can extend children’s natural curiosity to learn in so many great ways through play. Play forms the foundation of the knowledge, skills and attitudes children build on for the rest of their lives. With BestStart's 16 Areas of Play, we help parents understand how play helps our children become lifelong learners", concludes Dr Barbara Backshall.

View BestStart’s 16 Areas of Play:

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