If you have ever watched a group of children playing and having fun, then you know what 'engagement' is: it's when there is effortless interaction and spontaneous learning taking place with no outside interference. This is how all learning should take place.
Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that sitting 'quietly' at a a desk, and listening to someone 'impose knowledge' was a better way to go. We've adapted the position that 'wasting time' and 'messing around' are not productive. We give in to pressure & buy into the idea (from TV commercials) that an 18 month old child should be able to read, talk and do other miraculous things, way before they are ready, and ahead of their peers, and all you need to do is buy a DVD and play some classical music. (Deep down, I think we know that this doesn't really help the child, but only serves to alleviate the pressure we all feel to be a 'good' parent.)
There is no shortcut to learning. It happens at its own pace, when the child is ready. Rushing them before they are ready only sets them back at some point down the line. However, there is one strategy that will guarantee that a child's environment is an educational one and that the child will be more learning-ready in general.
That strategy is to have more fun.
A recent study by neurologist and educator Judy Willis has found that the longer and more involved the task, the more a child will 'tune out'. This is boring to a child and of no benefit. Infusing fun into lessons increases engagement & helps a student remember the lesson and in some cases, explore the concepts even further.
Fun is always good, but of course, learning is the real reason students are in school. If we find a way to effectively strike a balance between fun & learning, everyone wins, but the children will be the ones who benefit the most.
I love to use storytelling & games in my classes. This article at the link below (from TeachHUB) gives instructions for 6 Cooperative Classroom Games that I absolutely love. I've made some simple adaptations to them for my special needs classes. I hope you enjoy them as much as my students and I have!