The pandemic has been especially disruptive for early childhood learners. Bright vibrant classrooms, games and activities with peers were replaced with computer screens as a mode of learning. These challenges necessitated the need to leverage technology and make learning engaging, meaningful and personalized. Many Ed-Tech companies operating in the PreK-12 segment took up the challenge, innovated and offered exciting options for learning which included simulations, animations, video-based learning and gamification of content.
Gamified learning is one of the most prominent trends which has been successfully implemented in early childhood learning. While it was being used even before the pandemic, this approach gained particular prominence during the lockdown. How is early childhood learning impacted by gamification you might ask.
Why is Early Childhood Important for a Child’s Overall Development?
The term Early Childhood encompasses the age group of children from birth to 8 years. This is a wondrous time of development and change. These years are marked by simultaneous and integrated growth in the physical, cognitive, linguistic, sensory and socio-emotional domains of a child. All these domains are equally important as they interrelate and overlap throughout a child’s development and their journey of exploring the world.
Here’s an interesting fact; did you know that the brain of a child under three years of age is super active? It makes almost 700 to 1,000 neural connections every second! These neural circuits support and build a child’s sensory, motor, and cognitive skills and control all their responses. During this time span, brain development is at its peak and grows to 90 percent of its adult size by between the ages of 3-5 years! Up till the age of 8 these capacities are rapidly strengthened.
Therefore, this period is critical for laying the foundations for logical and creative thinking, problem-solving, learning multiple languages, forming behavioral patterns, building motor skills, and securing emotional well-being. The skills and abilities developed during these years often predict a child’s future functioning and achievements.
Let’s explore the concept of gamified learning.
Early childhood research proves that children learn best through active, sensorial exploration and engagement. Game or play-based learning nurtures the physical, social, intellectual, emotional and creative abilities of a child. Therefore, gamification of learning and engaging young learners in creative learning activities is a powerful method of optimizing a child’s overall development.
Think about a game of Ludo, Snakes & Ladders or any other game or sport that young children play. The common factors in all of them are engagement, fun, a goal and the motivation to win.
When these factors are applied to learning, the result is ‘gamification’.
Gamification helps build the learner’s engagement, clarifies or strengthens concepts and skills through an activity-based, hands-on approach to learning.
Gamification of learning has also proven to be an effective way for children to apply their learning and test their knowledge.
There are numerous and compelling benefits of gamification:
1. It enables a deeper engagement in the learning
2. Learning becomes fun, interactive results in faster assimilation.
3. Active learning through gamification leads to a clearer understanding
4. It provides real-time feedback
Gamified learning builds early skills of observation, thinking, strategizing, decision making, collaboration, etc. It is important to note that this strategy is not dependant solely on technology integration. Any creative activity which integrates the key elements of game-based learning reaps the benefits that this approach offers. Classroom or home learning settings can integrate some elements and easily adopt this approach. The best combination of elements are the ones that ensure engagement, cater to the child’s learning needs, and build excitement and motivation for the task.
Some ideas for integrating this method include using board games, puzzles, bingo, crosswords, outdoor games, role play, puppetry, music and movement and creative activities, integrating different disciplines for example art and math or music and language to ensure that learning is engaging and gamified. It is imperative to maximize screen-free learning for our young children as this is the time children learn best through activities and sensorial exploration of their immediate environment.
Nurturing a child, during their early formative years is a task that requires patience, thoughtful initiative and an environment that allows a child to flourish and grow in a holistic manner. Various strategies, resources and tools are deployed by parents and educators. Gamified learning is one such proven method that encapsulates multiple positive qualities such as healthy competition, creative and logical thinking, encourages social interactions and gives the learners a sense of ownership of their learning. Gamification for early childhood learners is effective because while it encourages the learner to use their existing knowledge and skills to attempt a challenge it also triggers elements of excitement, joy and a sense of achievement at accomplishing a goal.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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