Building forts builds intellect? Absolutely! The value of play-based learning for the healthy intellectual development of young children has become a hard-founded axiom of early education. And fort building certainly constitutes play-based learning at its best. Looking at academic and intellectual skill development, researchers agree that physical play toys provide kids with unique opportunities to develop skills which improve intellect, coordination, balance, exploration, independent inquiry and experimentation (among just a fraction of the incredible benefits offered during physical playtime), all while having a great time. Playtime is an investment in your child’s brain development, which when strongly founded in the early years, reaps better long-term results throughout their lifetime.
What does this mean to parents? Academic skills expect children to master elements of disconnected information. Drills and worksheets may ring familiar to parents and children alike. Information with concrete answers requiring memorization and the use of formulas give children an essential foundation for the next level of learning. On the other hand, intellectual skills incorporate the bigger picture and seek to use the entire mind. Examples of these skills include questioning, reasoning, predicting and analyzing. The development of ideas, study of them and search for understanding associated with intellectual pursuits critically broadens a child’s learning.
Yes, both of these skill sets are vital to a child’s development. However, studies reveal the increased value of encouraging inborn intellectual dispositions from an early age. Lilian G. Katz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s professor emerita of early childhood education, states that neurological research contradicts the “earlier is better” theory of academic training. In fact, it is Katz’ belief that intellectual dispositions can be “weakened or even damaged by excessive and premature formal instruction.” Her research and study strongly indicate a need for learning that weighs more heavily on intellectual skills in early childhood.
Let’s go a little further. A report entitled, “Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose,” reveals conclusions of the authors that active, play-based experiences enable children to develop vital learning skills. Their research supports a finding that decades of research and the experience of many parents indicate. Children learn through play. Hands-on experience with the world and caring adults proves a powerful classroom for children. Greater long-term gains result from play-based programs than those more academically focused in the early years. Again, these researchers agree that experiences not geared to this learning need of children causes harm.
What does this mean for kids? More forts please! Yes, fort building provides the perfect hands-on experience that engages the senses and the mind to increase intelligence. And, these precursor play activities inspire and encourage an appreciation and mastery of basic academic skills. Let’s look at the intellectual skills targeted with fort building. From the moment the Fort Magic kit pours out from the box, the mind is engaged. Creativity dreams up a vision for the fort, while reasoning puts a plan into action. And, innovation begins!
Hypothesizing comes into play as pieces are put together. Questions arise and solutions explored in the analysis of each step. Just listen to the conversation, and you might glimpse the wheels of young minds spinning. And, all the while, language, interpersonal and conflict resolution skills develop as your children interact with one another or with you. When an idea doesn’t work, problem-solving areas of the brain engage to find solutions. An obstacle met during the fort building inspires new ideas and promotes understanding of the world around these young minds. Successful completion of the plan sparks confidence and inspires children for the next build.
These opportunities of independent exploration, initiative and continued interaction prove vital to a child’s learning environment, according to Katz. Without these play-based learning experiences, children develop feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and anxiety. Not the picture of childhood that any parent desires to paint. But, what about the academic? Basic academic skills supported by intellectual skills result. Again, both are critical. Through fort building and other hands-on play opportunities, children learn shapes constructed of the Fort Magic straight and curved sticks. Sizes take on mathematical meaning as they choose long or short pieces to create designs. And lets not forget, there is always an opportunity for counting and sorting pieces while contemplating new inventions and designs. Brightly hued scarves, tulle, play silks or cellophane as fort walls teach colors, patterns, and textures. While using the Fort Magic fabric clips to attach fabrics provide children the perfect activity to improve their spatial reasoning and focus.
Moving up the age scale a bit, older kids engage further with numbers as angles and lengths are calculated. An understanding of basic architecture develops, as creative and more elaborate designs arise from the bounty of parts available for building with Fort Magic’s curved and straight sticks, and multiple types of connectors. For children, this opportunity to use their imaginations during construction is interesting and engaging. Choosing just the right parts to complete their masterpiece requires some contemplation, igniting innovation and problem-solving, as engineering skills evolve naturally through the play of fort building. And, we have not even talked about all of the activity and play that boosts learning after the fort is built. The adventures on the high seas with a fort ship, or the tunes that bellow from music-themed forts, or the masterpieces that emerge from an art studio fort engage the intellect. This type of inspired play leads to hours of uninterrupted learning through one simple activity alone!
Fort building for kids of all ages leads to intellect building, without a thought given to a textbook or classroom. The natural curiosity and inquisitive dispositions of children takes over when the opportunity to build or create an incredible new fort is presented. So pull out your bag of Fort Magic kit this week, and watch the intellect – and fun – in your child’s mind flourish! Happy Fort Building!
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