When it comes to the idea of learning, I always go back to these powerful and inspiring words. The concept of learning by doing has never been more emphasized than when I became a mother. Now, having hands-on play activities and discovering new learning ideas for the little one have become a priority at home.
But why is it important to expose children to hands-on play activities? One of the biggest benefits of hands-on learning is that it forces a child to think, rather than depend on an adult to feed them the lesson or knowledge.
There are many scientific studies that support the value of the hands-on approach in learning, including a UChicago research led by How the Body Knows Its Mind author and one of the leading mind-body connection experts, Professor Sian Beilock. Published in Pyschological Science, the study determined that a hands-on approach to learning helps to activate the sensory and motor-related parts of the brain. This, in the process, helps children develop problem-solving skills while more likely to retain the lessons, all because they were able to physically experience the learning process through play.
In an interview published on UChicagoNews, Beilock said: "“In many situations, when we allow our bodies to become part of the learning process, we understand better.”
Hands-on Play Through Building Blocks
At home, one of our favorite hands-on play activities is constructing things using building blocks. The little one is currently obsessed of her new Cubbie Lee Toy Company's Wooden Train Set. Okay, I'm not going to lie, the entire family is actually obsessed of this train set, primarily because it is made of premium wood—and nothing brings back nostalgia more than wooden toys!
For me, there's something so cathartic about building things with your hands, of being the creator who holds the power to build anything your mind could imagine. For the hubby, sharing the learning moment with the little one brings him back to his childhood days. "Oh, I remember how excited I was when I first built my first-ever train set! I was about your age," he recalls as we were all gathered on the floor trying to piece together the train set for the first time.
For the little one though, aside from the novelty of a new toy, there's a sense of accomplishment to be able to sort out the 70 wooden pieces in this train set, follow general guidelines and successfully build a train set for the first-time in her life. For any six-year-old and given how elaborate this train set is (it even includes a bridge set), it's a major accomplishment!
"Look mommy, I did it! I helped build this train set and it looks so great!" she exclaims after the last piece was added.
Hands-On Play is Not Easy
Although hands-on play is highly encouraged, it's often not easy, especially for children who have the tendency to quickly get frustrated and impatient. In the course of building this wooden train set, the little one had her moments of frustrations. "But daddy, it's not fitting right!" she complains with a hint of frustration.
"Try another piece and look how the wooden piece curves," her daddy offers helpful tips without completely taking over the experience for the little one. As a parent, it can be very tempting to step in and do the activity for the child to keep tantrums at bay or save you the sanity from the thousand questions that may come along with the experience of hands-on play. But building a toy yourself defeats the purpose of helping a child develop better problem-solving skills.
But how do you keep a child from getting frustrated in the middle of a hands-on play activity? My mommy-tested trick involves being present while the little one is at play and helping her discover a solution to the problem for herself by asking her helpful questions.
For instance, to help her determine why pieces are not fitting right, I would ask questions like: "Why do you think it's not fitting right? Did you look at how the pieces are shaped together?"
By asking leading questions, I am able to guide the little one but still encourage her to continue to explore solutions to the problem. You'll be surprised at how kids often rise up to a challenge once they know they are being supported, so don't be too quick to feed them of a solution to a problem.
Fun Hands-On Play Activities
For more fun hands-on play activity ideas, I often visit education.com as they have a ton of great learning ideas to kick boredom out and help your little one enjoy creative play. How do you encourage hands-on play with your curious little ones? Which hands-on play activity does your kid enjoy the most? Let's share ideas in the comment box below.