The Benefits of Learning Through Play

The Benefits of Learning Through Play

According to Leah Shafer of Harvard Graduate School, play comes in three forms: social, guided, and independent. Each type of play serves a different purpose but all three work together to promote learning.

 First, let’s look at social play. Social skills are essential for success as children grow toward adulthood. We need social skills to get our needs met, share experiences, interact appropriately with other children and adults, and participate in our community & the workforce in adulthood. When children play socially, they develop these skills. The development of social skills through play requires very little adult interaction. Children can play games such as tag or Duck, Duck, Goose. They can participate in dramatic play together like playing restaurant or doctor. And they work collaboratively with toys to build with blocks or complete puzzles. SplashEz has great puzzles for children to work collaboratively on. With 48 pieces in their beginner puzzles, there are more than enough parts for the children to share and build together. Check out the Ocean Beginner Puzzle!

Let’s consider guided play. When we want children to practice a targeted skill, like spelling, counting, or vocabulary acquisition, guided play is best. The adult sets up an activity for play so that the child has some guidance with materials, what to do, or both. From there, they use the materials for play and learning. A Montessori teacher may set out a color sorting activity, or a baby sitter may provide flashcards and manipulatives for counting.  A parent may set out a spelling activity, like this Vehicles spelling puzzle SplashEz. The caregiver should guide the child through the exercise, slowly removing their assistance as their child becomes more independent.

Independent play is something many parents would like to see their children do more often. When we select engaging learning toys for our children and teach them to play on their own through more guided play, we will see more independent play. Guided play with an adult will always precede independent play. Education-rich toys such as puzzles, letter games, numbers toys, and more can be available in the playroom to encourage independent play and subsequent learning. Two great educational options are floor puzzles, like this one: The Deep Blue - 48 Piece Beginner Puzzle; and spelling games, such as: Journey Vehicle Spelling Puzzle. Both toys encourage fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and the spelling puzzle promotes literacy.

Let’s recap! There are three types of play: social, guided, and independent. Social play occurs when children play with peers. This can be outdoor, free-play, or while sharing toys. Guided play is much like it sounds. An adult guides the child by offering particular options or showing the child “how” to play. Independent play follows guided play and must be taught. SplashEz provides a variety of toys to support each type of play. Visit to see all that they have to offer for learning and play!

Becka is a mother of 4 children under 5 years old - 4-year-old triplets and a one-year-old. She also writes for her blog, The Becka Blog, and Instagram by the same name. She is a previous special education teacher with both a bachelors and masters in education. She passionately shares about education, play, and life skill learning on her platforms.