As someone who has spent most of 2023 deeply embedded in the work of the PYP curriculum team, I also decided to take a look at one of the IB publications entitled Inquiry through play, which is a document aimed at supporting PYP parents (and grandparents!). Both the documentary series and the publication highlight that from birth children are hands-on natural inquirers and that they learn through playful interactions with people and their environment.
I really like the way this publication links play with the approaches to learning skills, which help a child to be successful not just in school but throughout life. There is a great graphic which I'm coping below that shows how play can help develop these skills (click on the image to enlarge it).
The IB publication goes on to describe how play not only develops skills, but also is important for the social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of children. For example play can encourage children to explore their own creativity in a way that is fun and enjoyable, and it can also help children to make meaning of what has happened to them, and can help them to recover a sense of normality and overcome emotional pain, thereby helping to give them control over their own lives after an experience of loss or trauma.
For me the most important thing is that children are naturally capable - they have a sense of agency and they are curious learners. According to UNICEF and the Lego Foundation, play has 5 characteristics:
- It is meaningful and helps children make sense of the world as new experiences are connected to something already known, so building understanding.
- It is joyful and encourages motivation and pleasure.
- It is actively engaging - children become deeply involved.
- It is iterative, encouraging children to practice skills, try out possibilities and discover new challenges.
- It is social - children communicate ideas in order to build deeper understanding and more powerful relationships.