Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler, Toy Box

Playing for the future

  • Play Sense
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler, Toy Box

Meg Faure, best-selling author & co-founder of Play Sense  

We are living in a time when everything we’ve come to accept as normal is being turned upside down. The same is true for education – especially when we think about how to best equip our children for the future. 

We’ve all heard about artificial intelligence and machine learning and how computers are much better at processing and organizing information than we are. Automation and digitization have changed the way we live and work. To the point that many of the jobs available today will be fulfilled by machines in the (not-so-distant) future. 

Future-proofing your child 

So, how do we ready our little ones for the future? Their future. Over the last decade we’ve seen pockets of schools, teachers and parents break away from traditional education, to something that engages the whole child in learning. Whether that be through smaller groups of children, teacher-child ratios of less than ten, different teaching methodologies or any combination thereof. 

Research and experience have proven that enriched experiences are the architect of little one’s minds. When a child is using their imagination, they are developing soft skills like collaboration, creativity, problem solving and self-regulation. And contrary to what our education system would have us believe – these are the skills that contribute to your child’s lifelong success. 

Google it 

More than a decade ago now, Google conducted recruitment research called Project Oxygen. The goal was to define the top 8 criteria candidates needed to succeed at Google. Given that Google is a data and technology business, you would think that STEM skills would be top of the list. But guess what? STEM skills were at the bottom of the list of essential skills – the rest were all soft skills. 

Soft skills are those strengths that are intangible, hard to measure but also invaluable when it comes to achieving lifelong success and happiness. There is no better time to start fostering soft skills in children than when they are toddlers. 

Children are in their most exciting development phase between 2 and 4 years old and the best thing we as parents can offer them is the opportunity to learn essential skills through play, guided by a nurturing teacher, in small groups and within a home environment. Toddlers thrive when these factors combine and it’s the basis of our ethos at Play Sense. 

Child’s play 

At 2 years old, little ones are not ready for unfamiliar surroundings, big groups of children and an overt focus on rushing through fine motor and cognitive development. It’s only through play that little ones learn – and soft skills form the foundation for their education journey, well into adulthood. Play Sense’s research-based program has been created by early years experts to prioritise the development of soft skills (and the overlap with Google’s findings is incredible!). But what skills does your child need to flourish?  

  1. Collaboration – the ability to understand one’s own mind, the mind of another and make connections with other human beings is critical in the workplace and beyond. For a two-year-old, this is best fostered in small group settings. When leaving home for the first time, your child should experience socialization in a protected and nurturing environment. This cements the foundation for a collaborative mindset. 
  2. Creativity – the ability to create something out of nothing, to envisage a product and plan the steps to get there is the cornerstone of a creative mindset. We develop creativity in children through simple toys, free play, and imaginary play – allowing little ones to discover and refine their inherent creativity.  
  3. Self-Regulation – the ability to manage strong emotions, create a balanced response to changes in the world and to moderate one’s own behaviour is a vital part of learning and success. The only way a young child learns self-regulation of strong feelings and overwhelming behaviours is in the context of loving, empathic relationships. As parents and teachers, we need to be co-regulators – facilitating the development of self-regulation. 
  4. Executive function – the CEO of the brain – executive function plans the way to achieve something, weighing up all resources at one’s disposal. Executive function activates the plan, reassesses as one goes along, and changes direction should the need arise. This mental flexibility and ability to see the bigger picture as well as the finer details is a critical soft skill. It is wonderfully developed as little ones embark on free play and imaginary games.  
  5. Super Senses – the motivation, will and drive to learn, be challenged and the spark to engage are what we call the Super Senses – unquantifiable soft skills that drive a child to master their world and develop a lifelong love for learning. Every education opportunity should nurture this magic quality. In the young child, play is the secret to igniting this fire. 

At Play Sense, we believe in the power of play to develop these and other core capacities. We witness the benefits of play every day along with hundreds of families around the world. And the resounding message is this – don’t overschedule your child with extramural activities, avoid the urge to be ‘busy’. Make play a priority in your home – it holds the key to a wealth of skills and abilities that your toddler needs to realise success and fulfillment in a world of the that most of us can hardly imagine. 

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