Monday, Dec 05, 2022

Play-based learning for toddlers: Let kids explore the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of things

This method of hands-on-learning among kids is 'exploration-based-learning'.

play learningExploration is an essential part of development in academic spaces as well as in everyday life. (file)

By Payal Shah

Children are innate explorers. They learn best through their curiosity and discovery. By observing their environment and peers, interacting with their surroundings, and obeying their instincts and impulses in a safe, educational space, children can craft their education.

Exploration is an essential part of development in academic spaces as well as in everyday life. Research shows that a young child learns more through the mode of self-involvement than through the guided process. It is also true that many aspects of learning can be understood better by exploring them on their own. This method of hands-on-learning among kids is ‘exploration-based-learning’.

Simply put, the difference between telling a child that a rose smells sweet and offering the child a rose to smell, touch and feel is essentially exploration-based learning. By encouraging kids to get physically and mentally involved in the learning process, activity-based learning helps students learn and retain information. This process of gathering knowledge through personal experience (i.e. experimentation) is shown to help kids memorise and understand learning material.

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Activities that ignite curiosity and open-ended thoughts encourage a child to play with various possibilities and answer more questions, which is an essential part of their early learning years. We must encourage young toddlers to put on their thinking hats and understand the real-life’ relevance of learning by guiding them to explore and solve real problems and scenarios.

A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three years-producing more than a million neural connections each second. The development of the brain is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences and environment that one must harness and expose their child to, from a natal stage.

Within early childhood, there are also windows of time when different regions of the developing brain become relatively more sensitive to life experiences. Emotional self-regulation forms the foundation of brain architecture. A person can monitor and regulate emotions. Emotion regulation is not a skill we’re born with. Yet it’s an essential skill in a child’s healthy development.


The sensitive period of learning this crucial life skill is before a child turns two. The critical or sensitive period is another reason why early life experiences matter so much. We must nurture our children into understanding the world around them, independently. We as parents must allow them to discover and explore the world on their terms and have their understanding of it.

We must aim at making the child seek the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as opposed to being told about it. Learning is their journey, let them navigate it by themselves. Encourage them to explore, watch them discover and let them fly on their wings.

(The writer is Founder of Nido and Wallaroos.)

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First published on: 18-02-2021 at 10:48:56 am
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