Empowering Children Through Play: Harnessing the Full Benefits of Playful Learning

Kids just want to have fun, which is why it’s important to lean into the learning potential of play. Some of the best growth happens via playful learning — when kids have so much fun they don’t realize they’re learning.

Harnessing the Full Benefits of Playful Learning

What Is Playful Learning?

The core idea of playful learning is rather simplistic — giving kids opportunities to learn through play. It’s about setting aside time during the day for intentional fun. Kids’ enjoyment and imagination will spur growth and learning during this time.

Here are three types of playful learning.

Free Play

Free play is child-initiated and led. Aside from basic safety rules, there are no limitations. They play without any specific objectives. Despite the lack of intentional learning, kids who engage in free play build soft skills like communication and problem-solving along with gross and fine motor skills.

Guided Play

Guided play looks a lot like free play but has an invisible structure. An adult starts the activity or leads the “free play” in a particular direction. Kids remain the leaders, but there’s a set learning objective.


Games are much more structured. An adult starts the game and sets the rules, but kids remain the leaders. Typically there’s a set learning objective.

Sometimes, the goal is to work on soft skills like taking turns and practicing critical thinking. Other times it may be learning to count or recognize shapes. In this mode, kids learn while having constructive fun.

Benefits of Playful Learning

You’ll be surprised by the results when you disguise learning as fun and let kids take the lead. It opens a new world of possibilities for helping your child grow.

It’s More Engaging

Sitting at a desk and listening to information or filling out worksheets isn’t most kids’ idea of fun. Asking them to do that at school is difficult enough. Your children will spend more time staring longingly out the window than engaging in learning.

When you disguise objectives as fun or let go of learning targets altogether, your kids are free to use their imagination, get creative, move around and engage all their senses. Children can stay engaged much longer when play and learning come together.

It Builds Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

When kids are in charge of their play and learning experiences, it’s up to them to create solutions. They’ll experiment with trial and error, and the skills they build during play will help them solve problems and interpret their surrounding at school or home.

It Grows Social Skills

Play is an excellent opportunity to improve social skills. Games and cooperative play require kids to work together toward a common goal or to take turns. They learn to communicate effectively and express their ideas in a sensical way.

It Encourages a Love of Learning

Learning through play allows kids to explore things that interest them. They can learn about the life cycle of animals by catching and observing a caterpillar. You can use an errand day as an opportunity to play Find the Shape.

Turning everyday moments into playful learning is simple once you get the hang of it, and it teaches them to love gaining new information in real-world situations.

It Gives Kids Confidence

Taking control of their learning and engaging in free play lets kids build confidence in their skills. They can see first-hand how capable they are.

They can conquer new physical, social and mental skills while having fun. Your kids will see they don’t need you to solve every problem or do everything for them.

It Strengthens Motor Skills and Coordination

Active play like running and climbing strengthens their sense of proprioception, which involves understanding how their body moves through space. It’s a prerequisite to balance and builds muscle tone and hand-eye coordination.

It also requires gross motor skills, which control the arms, legs and torso. Other activities that use smaller movements like grasping and manipulating objects build fine motor skills.

Ways to Support Playful Learning at Home

You don’t need to be a certified educator to support playful learning at home. These suggestions will get you started.

Get Out in the World

Take your kids out and let them experience what the real world has to offer.

Let them play at the pool or playground and hike through the woods.

Make Time for Free Play

The easiest way to get started is to make time for free play. Kids need plenty of unstructured time to do what they like. Your role should be to make sure they stay safe.

Take Part, Not Control

If your kids want you to engage in free play, guided play or a game with them, feel free to join in the fun.

You can ask occasional questions, but you should let them lead. You’re there to participate and facilitate, not control.

Gather a Variety of Supplies

Open-ended toys work best for free play since they require kids to use their imagination. You should also keep basic art supplies on hand. You can add other things as your kids grow and ask for more specific tools.

Learning Starts at Home

Embracing playful learning at home is simpler than you may think and has the potential to expand their knowledge and skills. You can support your kids by creating an environment that spurs creativity and inquiry.

Expose your children to a wide variety of experiences and locations. The more they use their senses to engage with their world through play, the more they learn.

Julie Higgins
Julie is a Staff Writer at momooze.com. She has been working in publishing houses before joining the editorial team at momooze. Julie's love and passion are topics around beauty, lifestyle, hair and nails.