Learning to Play, Playing to Think!

The initial 12 years of a child’s life are extremely crucial to the primary development of both physical skills and mental capacities. Thus, one of the basic aim of education is to provide the right inputs to help children grow up into conscientious individuals, equipped with an ability to create right perspectives along with the fundamentals to make the right choices in life and be responsible citizens.

The period between 3-8 years of a child’s life is very important time as there are rapid changes that happen in the child’s cognition (Thought processes). These stages are not passive procedures, even though they can develop on their own to an extent. They need to be actively stimulated and worked upon to ensure full development, so when the child enters into the next stage of school years he/she will have all the necessary prerequisite skills needed to make him/her ready to learn how to learn.

The next critical stage, 8-12 years is the phase where the child starts experimenting with his/her own cognition to see its relationship and impact on self as well as other emotional and social structures. Hence, a correct formation of cognitive fundamentals during the age of 3-8 years, followed by simulation of emotional and social situations that a child may encounter during the age of 8-12 years enables him/her to apply the learnt cognitive processes in the academic and real life environment.

Thinking is a conscious act. Thinking demands space and time. Thinking skills stand at the heart of learning whereby they make certain learning possible. As a result, they make the learner learnable to carry out certain tasks.
Despite this, it is possible to learn without thinking (rote learning, or learning by accident). The role of memorisation is clearly important here, since memorisation plays a vital role in the case of learning without thinking.

The common link in both the above ways of learning is ‘Internalisation of information’ which is achieved in both cases, but internal processing of this information in the case of learning without thinking, depends upon memorisation. While in the case of learning with thinking, memorisation is only a part of the wider internal processing of thinking and learning.

The educational toys designed specifically to encourage certain cognitive thinking like basic logics, reasoning, and creative concepts have proven to work from ages. In recent years, the importance of using educational games or thinking tools in the development of children has become not only popular but quite necessary to promote the growth of healthy brain function and skills that adults use on a day-to-day basis. However, the core issue still remains – Are these educational games being scientifically used in a manner to give an exposure to children to develop structured thinking? Is the learning designed with pre-set specific outcomes? Is this development through thinking games structured to meet the demands of academic performance and life skills?

With majority of young people suffering from a lack of required learning (thinking skills!) which in turn is leading to a passive society, more and more people are realizing that to educate our young generation we would be required to devise newer mechanisms and motivational triggers to keep the children engaged and focussed on self-development.
(by Ashutosh Khurana, Co-founder & CEO of THOTS Program to develop various Higher Order Thinking Skills through physical games and simulations)