Think about your experiences growing up at home and in school. At what times did your most significant growth and progress take place? The answer is probably when you were at play. In such cases, you were relaxed and content and open to new ideas. Additionally, you favoured the use of imagination to take you where you needed to go.
You took risks and stretched yourself in the way that was best for you, and felt safe knowing the destination was a good one. In short, you were having fun learning, and as such your best learning happened.
Fun is a relative term, of course—what’s fun for some may not be for others. For instance, some folks enjoy getting up and exercising to have fun. Another's idea of fun is sitting and doing a sudoku puzzle. It's the word “play” in our question which is the more important idea.
Achieving effective learning means getting your learners' minds into the same space they are in when playing. When that happens, the barricades are removed and curiosity takes hold. That's when learning takes off into the stratosphere.
Why Should Learning Be Fun?
When you subscribe to the idea that fun and play are crucial to achieving effective learning, preconceived notions can arise. One of these is that you automatically feel learning must be tailored to fit every child, which although possible is a tall order. Another is when you decide that teaching should be fun, you’ve got to be able to entertain everyone. Thankfully, this is not necessarily true.
Play in learning isn't suggesting you throw all organization to the wind. You still need to have impeccable class management skills and consistency. No one is saying go against your own personality, either. Even if you’re an introvert, know that you have a place in the classroom.
Let's talk about the “play” aspect in achieving effective learning with a real-life example. Fred Rogers used play extensively in his Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood series. He knew that imagination and make-believe was a safe place for children to engage and learn about themselves. Additionally, The Child Life Council has this to say in their document on play in emergency room situations:
"Children from all cultures play. Even in cultures where young children are expected to assume adult work responsibilities, anthropologists cite examples of how children manage to integrate play into their daily tasks. This suggests that play is not only universal but essential to human development.
"Indeed, research has repeatedly shown that the benefits associated with play are profound and wide-ranging. Following a meta-analysis of 800 studies, ... there was cogent evidence for the positive impact of play on children’s developmental outcomes.
"Play was found to significantly promote cognitive and social aspects of development and these effects were magnified when adults participated in play with children."
It Makes Sense
Play is multi-sensory and it is tailored fit to each child. In achieving effective learning it is also a means of feedback.
You can learn much about a child's development by observing how they play.
As we stated earlier, we never lose our desire for playing regardless of our age. Our experiences will change over time and our imaginations will tend to be more geared toward our life situations. Nevertheless, it is playing and connecting to what is familiar and safe that can be a bridge to achieving effective learning. In this way, learning will never cease to be fun.