For many children, 2020 has been a challenging year. They have missed out on many of the things that they enjoy as well as giving them many benefits. One thing that has been missing has been hands-on activities, activities where children learn by active participation rather than being told about it in a classroom, by parents or by nannies. Although hands-on activities can cover a multitude of different things, generally they involve use of the hands – hence the name.
At our international school in Bangkok, we actively encourage children to take part in these types of activities, whether it is counting bricks, playing games or anything else that involves interaction. There are many reasons behind our thoughts in doing this, many of which we will go on to explain. Of course, we know that books, computers and pencils play a vital role in education, but for this article, we explore the benefits of hands-on activities.
For younger children, especially those of kindergarten age, hands-on learning is more attuned to how they learn naturally. If you think about your child when they were in their early formative years, they will watch you intently, and then try copying before moving on to experimenting on their own. Continuing this style of learning is critical in pre-school children, those of school age and in the forthcoming years.
It captures their imagination
Children, particularly toddlers, have short attention spans even with things that they enjoy. Play and practical learning is far more fun, and they will find holding their concentration easier. You can still teach them the same topics; it is just about adopting different and often more effective practices. An example could be learning the alphabet; something that can be monotonous, but if we write the letters in sand or using clay to make the letters, it will seem like play rather than learning.
Some children find academic learning scary or intimidating, so learning through play helps them to remember things without fear. Enjoying learning from an early age will stand them in good stead for their later school life as well as in further education. It is something that can never be overstated and is why it forms a key role in our early years learning.
Learning through experience
How many household tasks do you carry out that you find boring or mundane, yet your toddler watches and copies, getting great satisfaction? Although you may find it frustrating having a little helper around, at the same time as you perform these jobs, they are gaining valuable life experience as well as physical and behavioural skills that will be required throughout their life.
Even as adults, we learn far more from being shown and then performing the task than we ever do from just being told something. How many people do you know have learnt to drive by only reading a book? Learning by experience in all walks of life has been proven to be highly effective as many academic articles will testify.
It encourages interactions and awareness of outdoor surroundings
Hands-on learning allows children to become more acquainted with their surroundings, and outdoor activities can be incredibly beneficial. Helping do a small amount of gardening and feeding animals in a park or at the zoo are events that children enjoy, especially when they are younger.
Interaction with nature is fantastic for improving both our mental and physical health. If this is something that children can do from a young age, it is a habit that they will hopefully continue throughout their lives. Being outside encourages children to explore and experiment, which in itself will bring interactions which cannot be replicated in a classroom environment.
Another benefit of being outdoors is the chance to burn off some energy and run around, mixing with children of their own age. This type of activity is essential for keeping children happy and has many benefits when it comes to their behaviour in addition to the obvious physical benefits of leading an active lifestyle.
It allows children to use all five senses
A mess is something that will always follow children as any parent or teacher will know. While it can be frustrating for adults, it is a vital component in their learning curve. Most sensory play will involve mess, sadly this is inevitable, but it allows kids to make discoveries about how things feel, and they will quickly learn to experiment and explore. It is a crucial part of learning about the world as it frequently involves sight, touch, sound, smell and sometimes, whether you like it or not, taste!
When children use more than one of their senses, it is believed to help them not only to learn but also remember. Great things that you can use as part of the hands-on learning include sand, water, clay and paints (in controlled conditions!). If the activities also involve socialisation, it can help children to learn new words and extended their vocabulary discussing their findings with others.
Uses different parts of the brain
The first six years of a child’s life is when the brain is developing at the fastest rate. Naturally, this means that it is a critical time for learning and using both hemispheres of the brain helps the body to develop. The right side of the brain is thought to be associated with visual and spatial awareness, along with both creativity and imagination. The left side is believed to develop more in older children and is regarded as being more analytical.
Talking, listening and using your hands stimulate more parts of the brain, and when the activities are combined appears to assist learning and memory. It is, in effect, a form of multi-sensory play.
Improves fine motor skills
Activities involving using the hands will enhance a child’s coordination, and this will be needed in their formative years for activities such as writing and tying their shoes. They will also help to improve strength along developing more functional skills for use in later life. It is again an essential aspect of hands-on play and should never be overlooked.
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At Kidz Village, we are passionate about children’s learning and believe that hands-on play should be a key component when it comes to their education. Our acclaimed International School in Bangkok strives to provide the ideal environment to promote all aspects of learning. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337.