Formal and Informal Education: Why Play is Important

Thursday - July 31, 2014

Most of us think of education as structured lessons in a classroom setting, but informal education through play is just as important.


When you think about formal education, you probably imagine a structured classroom setting, with a teacher up front and rows of children listening patiently and taking notes. Most of our primary and secondary education experiences fall in line with this view. And there are several major benefits to this type of educative structure:

·         Lessons are repeatable and consistent across multiple generations

·         Specific measures of information retention can be used (in the form of tests, usually)

·         Children are treated similarly and are in an environment that encourages focused attention

·         A teacher is given the authority to direct many children simultaneously

·         Several other advantages

But there are also some gaps that this formalized education structures cannot fill. While it is important to have some degree of consistency when teaching multiple children at once, all children are unique and learn best in different ways. Similarly, while the structured environment is good for helping children focus, it may also limit creativity and enjoyment.

That’s why play and activities are so important to the learning process. With open environments, free socialization, and activities that encourage creativity, children are able to discover and develop their own skills at their own paces.

The best learning environment is one that captures the best of these two modes of learning: formal and informal. This way, children can experience and progress through structured lessons while also having an opportunity to openly develop on their own terms.

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