Discovery Play - One of the two major types of play that fosters curiosity and discovery



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Discovery play is another major part of a child's life. The other part is imaginative play.

Simply put, discovery play allows children to learn about the world and how it works (not just the physical world either). In general, children learn best by doing, so this type of playing is a natural fit for their development.






Discovery play doesn't necessarily mean that children are given a structured kind of play.

Yes, it does happen this way too and it can be fun. But more often than not, it's more enjoyable for kids to just "do stuff" and see what does what and why. This is the really fun part of learning. Maybe more so because it's spontaneous.

Discovery toys, therefore, mean toys that are mainly designed to engage children into play while leading them to make new discoveries (e.g., how engines work, how to build a stable structure, concept of gravity through marble runs, etc...).

Of course, there are very few toys if any that can be called non-discovery toy. If you wanted to get technical, I bet someone could come up with a reason for why a plush toy could be called a discovery toy (e.g., textures and other characteristics of the material used).

So why is it important enough for me to dedicate a whole page to this topic? I mean, if almost anything can be classified as a discovery toy and if almost any activity can be called a discovery play, then why bother to name it and identify it?

Maybe it's the 'grown up' in me or maybe I am thinking too much into this.

But think of it this way. Suppose you have a child who is unable to speak yet. She tries to communicate with you and you can tell that she is using some form of sign language or gesturing in a consistent manner in her efforts to get her message across.

It is important to recognize that she is attempting to communicate with you in a systematical way, but that alone isn't enough. What you need is to know the specific signs to look for in her communication attempts.

Likewise, I think knowing that something is a discovery play or discovery toy isn't enough. It's a great start, but you need to know what to look for in your child's play or toys.

So having gone through that lengthy explanation, let's go over some characteristics of great discovery play or toys.

  • Can be structured or non-structured.
  • What is important is that there are multiple possible ways of doing something or for something to happen. In other words, it's not much of a discovery toy if a marble run comes fixed in one way and cannot be manipulated. It will give the same result every single time (and won't be much fun).
  • Can be topic focused (e.g., velocity, stability, etc...) This isn't the same as being structured. Structured refers to how the learning is delivered while "topic focused" refers to the scope of the discoveries.
  • Some discovery toys have problem solving built into them like a marble run (can you tell I like marble runs?). For example, after a child sets up the run, she must test it to see if things would go the way she thought they would. If they don't, she must figure out the problem, find its cause, hypothesize a solution for it, and finally test it.
  • Another group of discovery toys are those that are designed with one or two very specific concepts in mind. These toys are usually good for their designed purpose only. Some classic examples are ant farms and microscopes.
  • An interesting thing about discovery toys is that the toys that are seemingly 'elementary' or 'simplistic' offer some of the best fun for kids. Take a magnifying glass for example. I don't know if you got in trouble as a kid playing with magnifying glass, but I looked at everything with it, then learned that light could be bent and focused. What wonderful discovery!

    Though on a side note, this led to some unpleasant moments, but that's another story.

If we wanted, we could try to classify this thing to death. The point is not to identify the different types of discovery toys, but to grasp what kinds of things you need to look out for.

What I think it really comes down to is not what the toy is designed to do, but what the child can or will do with it. Depending on how she plays, moments of profound discoveries can be experienced (even simple things like "Hey, I can use this skipping rope to tie something, but it's too slippery. How can I tie this better?")

For parents, what's really important is that we encourage, without interfering, this learning process. And it is a learning process, which means it will take time and lots of trial and error.

It takes a lot of patience on our part. This is tougher than you might think. Here's my story.

So keep your eyes open for the different toys, but also for what else you can do with those toys. Let your child discover what she can or can't do with her toys. Encourage her to experiment and to try new things.

I wish you many great moments of discoveries, "ah-ha" moments and memories to cherish.

"education at play"



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child development 
im studying child development for GCSE and this information has realy helped., it has given me an insite of what a child does and see things. really good …

Microscopes Not rated yet
Actually, my kids love scopes of all kinds. We actually visited your store when you had the retail store open and we bought the large scope that can be …

Lego Not rated yet
My little one loves Lego and I can see her brain just working figuring out how to make a tall tower without making it fall. It's amazing how many hours …

mag Not rated yet
magnifyin glass yee haaa (y)

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