Parents always want the best for their children and also they are solely responsible for bringing them up, so a question that often comes is: how can they best educate their children? Plearning, playful learning, is surely one of the most important concepts we need to introduce to find the answer.
- "Good learning happens in the state of flow that needs a mix of joy and challenge" - Eszter Salamon
What counts as high quality education depends on what you consider success. The goal of education is to support children to become well-rounded people and responsible citizens, as the key to a future to mankind.
As the world around us is rapidly changing, researchers and practitioners are reaching an agreement on what so called “21st century skills” are needed to became able to adapt to this change.
We are moving away from focusing on traditional cognitive skills, towards collaboration, communication, content (learning to learn), critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence. Unlike traditional success-centred approaches to education, these skills can only be developed through failure and retrying.
We must educate children to be lifelong learners for necessary adaptablity. The key to this is that learners must feel education is good for them. Good learning happens in the state of flow that needs a mix of joy and challenge.
According to Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, characteristics of good learning are:
1. Active construction of knowledge and learning,
2. Accumulation, linking new things to old,
3. Self-regulation by controlling, understanding and reflecting on your own learning, and
4. Cooperation, communication and helping
Research backs up any parent’s simple observation – when playing, children show all the above. It is time to stop thinking about learning versus play and start speaking about learning via play. All too often children are offered the possibility to play as a reward – a reward for behaving ‘well’, for writing their homework – and deprived of play as a punishment. Increasing evidence shows that play shouldn’t be an escape from learning but a driving force behind it.
The crucial role of play in the lives of children and their lifetime success, as well as the need for parents to understand, encourage and engage in play from an early age, is highlighted by research findings of a longitudinal study that began in 1986, referred to in a recent article in the New York Times. The message is clear: for a successful life, you need to become lifelong players and educate your children to follow your example.
My own organisation, the European Parents’ Association has fostered the creation of a peer parenting movement, the International Parents’ Network to empower parents and also to equip them with physical and other tools to become great, playful educators.
A number of additional steps are needed to ensure a change in education at home and at school. A very important part of this is to set the global agenda for Positive Impact of Play, involving parents (with a special emphasis on fathers), children, the private sector, role models, social media, mass media, government, civil society, research and the public/community in general.
A huge step has been taken towards this by establishing PlayFutures, an online community aiming at bringing research, policy and practice that targets innovation to create a world that values learning through play. The PlayFutures community is just starting up, but we encourage you to sign-up on the community website to follow the progress as it evolves.
As president of the European Parents’ Association, Eszter Salamon’s priority is assisting 21st century parents to support their children to reach their full potential. A teacher and economist specialised in the field of NGOs and PR, Eszter is committed to supporting parents in their role as children’s first and most influential educators. Eszter has almost 30 years of experience in the area of children’s, students’ and parents’ rights and is deeply involved in European education discussions on topics including lifelong learning, the prevention of early school leaving and youth unemployment, the importance of developing key competences, and the role of informal and non-formal learning. Eszter is also the executive director of a cultural foundation that promotes quality popular culture with an emphasis on activities for children and youth.