The impact of learning through play on a child’s development

Learning through play and early social interaction is so important for a child's development and can benefit their communication skills, creativity and confidence, helping them thrive and interact better at school and in later life

Small children doing sport with instructor.

We spoke to Rich Elms, the Founder and Managing Director of BabyBallers, a multi-skill football franchise with over 50 clubs in the UK. Rich shares his advice on the benefits of learning through play from an early age. Rich has since sold his first BabyBallers club to new owners while he leads the UK head office – a big leap from his former days as a model and his guest appearance on Made in Chelsea!

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How learning through play at an early age can benefit children struggling to interact at school

Learning through play at an early age is essential for helping young children prepare for school, encouraging their imagination and equipping them with literacy and numeracy skills. In fact, a child’s brain forms neural connections at a pace of at least 1,000 per second. These connections are triggered by rich, loving and protected environments, which ultimately lead to positive development.

One of the biggest misconceptions about play is that it can not be educational. I am here to tell you what utter nonsense that is!
Rich Elms, founder of BabyBallers

It will come as no surprise to most parents that learning through play at an early age is incredibly important. Not only does learning through play enable children to explore and make sense of the world around them, but it also helps them develop their imagination and creativity. Because play is imperative in a child’s development, a fun play-based class can provide a great learning environment to help children thrive and prepare for later life.

BabyBallers skills 2
Rich Elms, BabyBallers Founder

So, here are my three top benefits to learning through play at an early age:

  1. Cognitive Benefits

One of the biggest misconceptions about play is that it can not be educational. I am here to tell you what utter nonsense that is! The truth is, play in a supportive environment can promote healthy development and reinforce memory. It also inspires children to create, imagine and exercise critical-thinking skills, which ultimately helps form intellectual development and cognitive processing.

When done in a fun class surrounded by peers, play can be a great tool to help develop social skills too. By promoting interaction with their peers, they soon understand social expectations and rules. So, when you are next on a play date or sat in the park watching your child play, just remember the positive impacts it is having on their development.

  1. Physical benefits

Physically, play allows children a chance to really boost their fine and gross motor skills. Now, I am not saying hours of play will turn your child into the next Ronaldo or Usain Bolt, but it will undoubtedly help their physical ability.

At BabyBallers, sessions involve running through cones, scoring penalties and practising ball skills. These kinds of activities help the children improve their coordination, balance and strength, promoting motor development. These sessions also help to support gross motor skills, such as energy, stamina, flexibility and body awareness.

  1. Emotional benefits

Play has an essential role in helping children understand and process their emotions. On the one hand, it can help them build confidence and encourage the development of their identity and self-esteem. On the other hand, it allows them to process sadness, anger and grief.

Part of growing up is accepting that winning and losing is a natural part of life. Learning to deal with this at an early age will help kids when joining school and in later life. We have all seen it – when a young child loses a game, the ‘Hulk smash’ anger often follows it. However, fun and supportive environments can teach children how to deal with these emotions and put them a step ahead of their peers.

Both free play and organised play is an integral part of a child’s early years and supports their learning journey too. Young children can develop language skills, emotions, creativity and social skills through the power of play. Ready for a game of football anyone?

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>> To find out more about the benefits of learning through play, please visit BabyBallers