Toys and games are synonymous with PLAY. Almost everyone likes to play and such a desire continues throughout an individual’s life. Psychologists inform us that play is not just a filling in of an empty period, or just a relaxation or leisure activity, but it is an important learning experience. For example, babies play with their fingers and toes and in so doing bring about a social interaction with adults who join in their game with them. As the baby develops this same form of play is extended to assist the child towards numeracy. The parent may often chant a rhyme such as
One, two, buckle my shoe,
Three, four, knock at the door,
Five, six, pickup sticks,
Seven, eight, lay them straight,
Nine, ten, a big fat hen;
while touching each of the child’s toes. The basis here is towards assisting the child to learn to count.
Studies have shown a strong link between play and children’s academic performance and cognitive development. Play is also seen as a means of working off aggression; as a means of learning basic skills of survival (as is also observable in the animal kingdom); as a means of learning social behaviour (competitive and co-operative games), as well as the commonly accepted means of relaxation. In this modern age of computers, computer games have become a major software component. It is argued that children rapidly learn how to operate the computer through exposure to games since they are motivated to do so. If this argument is accepted then we have a concrete example of learning through play. In terms of technology, the additions available to the basic computers to extend their range is again a learning experience for children, who often wish to extend the range of their computer to perform more complex games.
In stimulating the child through computer games we may see the benefit in the classroom and laboratory when the youngsters progress to learning science as specialisations in the later years of secondary education. Although the majority of schools in the less developed countries are not likely to have computers in the foreseeable future the school children in these schools can enjoy their early experiences in learning science and technology through toys and games. For many, the only structured learning of science and technology is that which they will receive during their primary school education.
By introducing them to science and technology through familiar and enjoyable experiences their appetites may be whetted to continue their learning via out-of-school education programmes and thereby become more useful to the community as a whole. The whole idea of this article is for teachers to re-appraise their teaching approach and, where appropriate, incorporate new ideas into their teaching so as to create a more suitable learning environment for their pupils.
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