Playing comes naturally to young children. Not only is it a skill that they are inherently born with, it is also the primary way in which they learn. Through playing with movement, objects, and other people, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn about social roles and interactions, how the world works, and, most importantly, they learn how to learn. Play is our first platform for problem solving, trial and error, critical thinking, and experimentation. It is no wonder that play-based learning is a prevalent trend in early childhood education, as can be seen by the rise in Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and arts-integrated preschool programs.
So, if play is a natural and instinctual process, why sign up for play-based schools or creative play classes? What benefits are there in playing in a more structured setting? At Spellbound Theatre, we believe there are several great reasons for playing in a group setting, and they are closely related to our practice as artists.
- COMMUNITY: Playing together is more fun than playing alone. A class structure gives both children and adults the chance to collaborate and learn from others. Not only do we come up with better ideas when we work as a group, we can learn new skills from others and strengthen our social skills - a very important skill group for young learners.
- REFLECTION: We often learn best when we not only play and have first-hand experience with new ideas/games/objects, but when we also have an opportunity to reflect on that play and see how we can apply it elsewhere. In a class setting, a facilitator can introduce a new idea through various types of play so that children (and adults) have many different ways to interact and understand it. For instance, in our "circus for babies" class, we introduce game and play around "balance" in many different ways - with scarves and balls and balloons and pillows. We also "assign homework" of a balance game to play at home, so that the learning and playing continues and children can reflect and make connections between one idea replicated in many activities.
- REPETITION: Have you ever noticed that children love to read the same book or play the same game over and over and over again? This is because repetition is not only delightful for children, it also increases their learning. A class structure combines familiar and repeated games and songs with new and exciting activities in each session.
- ADULTS PLAYING: In a creative play class, children do not play alone - their caregivers and the teaching artist are playing right along with them. Children instinctually know how to play, but adults have forgotten that skill. A class setting can give adults the confidence they need to see what kind of play is developmentally appropriate for their child and the freedom to get down on the floor and play like a toddler again. It is incredibly exciting for children to see adults modeling creative play, and participating in a creative play class can give adults great ideas for playful activities to bring home so that the learning doesn't stop in class.
At Spellbound we play through the arts - dance and song and storytelling and puppets and circus. The link between art and play is something we infuse into all of our education and performance programs, and something we hope to pass on to the children and adults who participate in our activities. Whether you come to one of our plays, attend a storytime, or join one of our creative play classes, we hope to share our love of artful play with you and your child, and inspire you to find ways to play in new and creative ways!
Spellbound Theatre's Creative Play classes run in 8-week sessions and explore stories, dance, songs, movement, and puppets through play-based activities for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Fall classes start September 23rd. To learn more, visit http://spellboundtheatre.com/classes.