How Does Playing Teach Children Literacy Skills?

At SYC, we know that children are operating at their highest levels of interest and focus during free play.  This is why we say that children learn best through play.  In this newsletter, we are taking a look specifically at the development of literacy skills.  As you will see in the stories from our classrooms, you can see language and literacy skills being practiced even with young two-year-olds and throughout the day in all the classes.

Socio-dramatic play provides the perfect platform for fostering language and literacy development.  In dramatic play, children further their understanding of the concept that one thing can be two things at the same time: that  that you can play at being an adult while remaining a child.  This is a concept necessary for literacy development—knowing that a written or spoken word represents something else like an object or a person.  So dramatic play is really an important step in learning to read.  Children also learn new words and concepts from each other so as they play they are constantly strengthening verbal skills .

As teachers watch dramatic play unfold, we can see what the children are thinking about and what they are trying to understand.  Common themes are house, doctor, fire fighter, veterinarian and store as well as birth and death, injury, work, marriage, sex and all the parts of life of which children are becoming aware.  Dramatic play can reduce stress and provide comfort and reassurance.  Children can actually work through fears as they play act their way through scary or upsetting events.  So watching what kids play gives teachers important clues about what children need to know more about.

Teachers watching can make comments that extend the play such as “Do the puppies need someone to feed them?  Do they need a house?” or “Do you want me to write down the story of the puppies?”  So stories are written, lists for houses are created, conversation between friends and teachers is rich and interesting and new concepts and ideas are explored.