Sometimes it seems to be an understatement that there is both a spoken and unspoken performance pressure to raise a brilliant child. Roberta Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist, states “We live in a crazy time, and parents are very worried about their children’s futures. They’re getting all kinds of messages about children having to score at the top level on some test. The irony is, kids could score at the top and still not succeed at finding great employment or becoming a great person”. (source)

So how do we redefine what being brilliant is?

“We’re training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts. And computers are always going to be better than human beings at that. But what they’re not going to be better at is being social, navigating relationships, being citizens in a community.”

This echoes the important mission of Wonders to educate the whole child, which is why we focus on a child’s social emotional development as much as we do other aspects of their physical development. Wonders believes that children of all ages learn best through play-based learning. Children need the opportunity to explore and play in a guided learning environment. Play also contributes to brain development. Evidence from neuroscience shows that the early years of a child’s development (from birth to age six) set the basis for learning, behavior and health throughout life. The child’s neural pathways are influenced in their development through the exploration, thinking, problem-solving and language expression which occur during play episodes. According to the Canadian Council on Learning, “Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development – it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life. Play ‘paves the way for learning’”.


But how do parents and educators now put play-based learning to action? The answer is simple – you play!

According to researchers Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, “The level of children’s play rises when adults play with them. The variety of play children engage in also increases when adults join in. The joining in is different from controlling. Controlling makes children follow their parents’ agenda and does not lead to as much cognitive development as when parents follow their children’s lead”.

There are several ways educators or parents can facilitate children’s learning during play:

    1. Adults can role-model positive attitudes towards play, encouraging it and providing a balance of indoor and outdoor play throughout the year. When adults join in, they should guide, shape, engage in and extend it, rather than dictating or dominating the play.
    2. Orchestrate an environment by deciding what toys, materials, and equipment to be included in that environment. It is important to offer a variety of materials and experiences at varying levels of difficulty. Both indoor and outdoor experiences should provide environments of exploration. The play environment should allow children to make choices, and to explore play possibilities. The play environment should reflect the child’s daily living experiences.
    3. Observe carefully as children begin to use the toys, materials and equipment. Observation is an ongoing process, providing information about the child’s interests, abilities and strengths and opportunities for further learning and development. Observation helps identify ways adults can build on and guide the learning.
    4. Extend children’s natural observation by providing the language necessary to help children articulate what they see happening. Adults can promote play and opportunities for expansive discoveries; they can enhance (or facilitate) play by encouraging children to bring their interests and experiences into the play. The adults can ask questions, to expand and enhance play.
    5. Help children recognize the concepts that emerge as they grapple with the environment, make hypotheses, recognize similarities and differences, and solve problems.