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Throughout the animal kingdom, baby animals learn through playing, and our children are no different.
From the moment a new tiny human enters this world, they begin learning. They are soaking up every sight, sound, smell and feeling around them and processing how the world works – all on their own terms.
From playing with fingers and toes to graduating to blocks and toys, play is an integral part of development – and much of early learning happens organically through child-led play.
In this blog, we share the importance of kids play by encouraging child-led learning and our role as caregivers to ensure our kids’ environment and play products are safe.
Here’s what you need to know:
Did You Know Every Time Kids Play They Are Learning?
What Is Child-Led Learning?
In the first few years of their lives, children master an incredible amount of skills – from learning to roll over and sit up to walking and talking. And while we are there to support their efforts, most of these things happen on their own schedule.
However, as kids grow up, adults tend to take over. Suddenly, education becomes more structured. Learning becomes less fun and more pressured. Inadvertently, teachers and caregivers disempower children by dictating how, when, and where learning happens.
Child-led learning reverses this system, allowing children the freedom to pursue their interests through play and experimentation.
Adults still have a role to play, of course. Kids need to be supervised and safe. We can facilitate learning through play by providing an enriching and fun environment full of learning opportunities.
Why Child-Led Learning Is Beneficial
One of the great things about child-led learning is, beyond our presence and participation, very little guidance is needed. Left to their own devices, children instinctively know how to play and learn valuable skills through that playing.
The benefits of kids play through child-led learning are well-documented. When learning is fun, kids learn to love the process and seek more of it.
We, as adults, need to learn to take a step back and let our children explore the world around them. In a safe and supervised environment, of course!
How To Encourage Child-Led Learning Through Kids Play
The beauty of small children is that almost any activity can be considered a learning experience! They are often eager to try new things and soak up knowledge like wee sponges.
Baking with a caregiver becomes an opportunity for kids to read (recipes and ingredients), do maths (measuring and mixing), and learn science (cleaning, heat, transformation of substances).
Playing shop with leftover boxes and containers teaches economics, maths, reading, and communication.
Drawing, painting, and creating with dough teaches creativity, colour recognition, hand-eye coordination and more.
The key to the process is to try to stand back and let little minds and bodies set their own course. Let their interests and signs of readiness guide you in what play products to make available.
Finding The Right Kids Play Products
Almost anything can become a toy when you are small! An empty box becomes a train or a castle; a stick becomes a microphone or a wand.
Creative minds can be encouraged with colours, substances, and smells that pique the imagination and awaken the senses.
However, kids do love to touch, smell and taste their toys! That’s why caregivers need to ensure children are free to learn with safe products – free of any nasty chemicals and toxins that could cause harm.
Ingredients To Avoid In Kids Play Products
It’s easy to assume that the products we purchase for our children have been thoroughly vetted and are 100% safe, but that’s not always the case. Everyday items can contain toxic chemicals that are dangerous for young bodies. Here are a few common ingredients that should be avoided:
PVC and polycarbonate plastic
These chemical filled plastics are no good for little ones. Yet, they can be found in many bath toys, dolls, and squeezy toys. Look for BPA-free options or natural materials. Be mindful that sculpting clays like Fimo are PVC based. Instead, opt for natural products like those made by the lovely people at Dough Folk.
Polyurethane foam stuffing
Found in cushions, throw pillows, pet beds, crafts or chairs. This kind of stuffing may contain toxic flame retardants. For safety, choose polyester, down, wool or cotton instead.
Aside from the environmental concerns, plastic is unnatural and potentially contains nasties. Opt for natural materials such as cardboard or wool, fabric or paper dolls, and wooden items.
Stabilisers and preservatives
Even products labelled as “kid-friendly”, including paints, glues, and other art supplies can contain toxic compounds. Avoid oil paints and enamels. Choose crayons and paints made with natural, non-toxic ingredients. We love the No Nasties and Honeysticks product ranges.
Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal. Lead poisoning is dangerous and can sometimes be fatal. It can be found in paints, plastic and children’s jewellery. So be very mindful when choosing items for your kids.
Safe Learning Through Play
Children have the innate desire to explore their own world and learn through play. Allowing them to take the lead when it comes to learning helps promote confidence and a love of learning.
As grown-ups, our role is to understand what kind of support they need as they play and develop. We can provide encouragement, a safe environment and engaging, non-toxic resources to help make learning safe and fun for all ages.
All Natural Mums proudly supply only the very best tried and tested kids’ play products to support child-led learning safely and naturally. Check them out here.
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