Learning should include play, especially in early childhood

Early childhood specialist, Vittoria Barbara, wants children to experience play during learning time, not just as a "frivolous" activity.

That’s why she is bringing music and painting together in the Vaiala Beach School preschool classes to have the children explore different sensory experiences and have fun at the same time.

Ms. Barbara started with Vaiala Beach School early in 2019. She said she is a firm believer in integrated learning, which gives equal importance to studious learning as to play learning.

“So today, we’re learning to paint to music, to express our emotions through the paint, of how the music makes us feel,” she explained.

The experience is intended to bolster the children’s critical thinking, vocabulary, and even their numeracy skills.

“They’ll be thinking about shapes, sizes, they’ll be talking to us as they work about what they are feeling.

“This work sets the foundations for everything that comes after,” Ms Barbara said.

For many of the children, play-learning doesn’t seem to come naturally. Ms Barbara said she has had to guide them closely and model the exercise for them, and carefully explain the work.

“It took a while to get them to relax, loosen up and get into the moment and into the experience,” she said.

“But soon enough they were enjoying it, and telling their stories of their work to us.”

Painting is messy work, and the children love it. The pre-schoolers are covered in paint, some intentionally and others from catching their painting from flying away in the wind – with their bodies.

“But I believe that if the kids are clean, they haven’t been learning,” Ms Barbara said.

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