As founders of Mini Water Adventurers, Kathryn Charlton and I; both qualified teachers, are passionate about the way children learn and translate that theory into the lessons we lovingly create.
Our S.W.I.M programme and lessons incorporates EPIC activities, which stands for Explore, Play, Investigate and Create. In this month's blog I'll delve into the power of play and why it's so important that we give children the time and space to play.
The benefits of play
The best and most effective way children learn is by being active and interested in what they're doing, in their own way, at their own pace and in their own time. Children are naturally curious, they instinctively learn in a holistic way, so it's important that our approach seeks to engage all aspects of the learner's personality such as their intellect, emotions, imagination and body.
Children do not play in order to learn, they learn through playing.
Now for the theory
Jean Piaget was a famous Swiss psychologist and famous for his extensive work on cognitive development of children. He believed a child's cognitive development isn't just about acquiring knowledge, the child has to develop or construct a mental model of the world. They think differently to adults and see the world in different ways. All children will go through the same stages of development in the same sequence, but not all at the same time. The aim of his theory is to explain the mechanism and processes by which an infant through to older child develops.
Children move through four stages of intellectual development and is determined by biological maturation and interaction with their environment. Each stage involves a different type of intelligence. The focus is more on development rather than learning per se.
Piaget's four stages of cognitive development
Stage 1: Sensorimotor stage (ages: birth - 2 years)
Children learn via their senses and moving around to explore the world they are in.
The infant lives totally in the present. They don't have any mental pictures of the world stored in their memory, so if they can't see an object then it doesn't exist.
The main achievement through this stage is object permanence. It requires the ability to form a mental representation of an object. Language starts to develop because infants begin to realise that words can be used to represent objects.
Stage 2: Preoperational stage (ages: 2 - 7 years)
Children acquire the ability to internally represent the world through language and mental images.
Their thinking is dominated by how the world looks rather than how it is. They haven't developed the capability of logic yet (i.e. problem solving)
They have a tendency to think non-living objects (like toys) have real lives and feelings like people do.
Stage 3: Concrete operational stage (ages: 7 - 11 years)
Children begin to think logically. This is a major turning point in their cognitive development because it starts with logical thoughts, which means they can begin to work things out internally in their heads.
They become less ego-centric and start to think more about how other people might think and feel.
Stage 4: Formal operational stage (12 years and over)
From 12 years old children can follow a logical argument, develop scientific thinking and formulate abstract theories.
What can we do in the swimming pool
Sadly, the majority of primary schools have reduced the amount of time given to children for them to play or enjoy physical activities. Instead the time has been replaced with more structured and directional learning. We can choose to make our swimming lessons as playful as possible. The lesson bundles we offer are packed with lesson ideas, activities, games and songs to sing - all great ways to create fun, playful opportunities to learn to swim whilst playing!
Click here to take a look at the lesson bundles on offer.