Why play-based learning?
‘ … for the EYLF to be implemented properly, all early childhood educators need to know what play is, why it is important, how to implement and assess a play-based program and their role in it.’
The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is built on the understanding that the principles of early childhood pedagogy (DEEWR, 2009, pp. 12-13) guide the practice of early childhood educators. Research tells us that an educator’s pedagogy is one of the most important aspects when assessing the quality of children’s learning. So early childhood educators need to carefully consider and question their pedagogy and corresponding practices.
In implementing the EYLF, educators should discuss and describe their understandings of the practice principles. One of the practices most commonly used in the early childhood sector is ‘learning through play’. Play-based learning is described in the EYLF as ‘a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they actively engage with people, objects and representations’ (EYLF, 2009, p. 46). But what is play? Play is hard to define as there are a number of theories and types of play. Can you describe play?
While there is no one definition of play, there are a number of agreed characteristics that describe play. Play can be described as:
- pleasurable-play is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. Play sometimes includes frustrations, challenges and fears; however enjoyment is a key feature
- symbolic-play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if?’ quality. The play has meaning to the player that is often not evident to the educator
- active-play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or the environment
- voluntary-play is freely chosen. However, players can also be invited or prompted to play
- process oriented-play is a means unto itself and players may not have an end or goal in sight
- self motivating-play is considered its own reward to the player (Shipley, 2008).
Once you have decided what play means to you, you should next ask yourself, why play-based learning? What is it about play that makes it so important? Play has a long and detailed research history that dates back to the work of Locke and Rosseau.
Research and evidence all point to the role of play in children’s development and learning across cultures (Shipley, 2008). Many believe that it is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development.
While research on brain development is in its infancy, it is believed that play shapes the structural design of the brain. We know that secure attachments and stimulation are significant aspects of brain development; play provides active exploration that assists in building and strengthening brain pathways. Play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life’ (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 9).
Young children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. The intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing have been well documented. Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behaviour, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning (Bodrova & Leong, 2005).
Fostering play-based programs
Physically active play allows children to test and develop all types of motor skills. It promotes significant health and wellbeing benefits. Centres that were found to have a high-quality, play-based learning program incorporated:
- a daily schedule that included active indoor and outdoor physical play
- integration of music, movement and creative expression
- adult-child interactions that modelled moderate to high levels of physical activity (meaning that educators were at times as physically engaged in active play as the children) (Steglin, 2005).
Play does not happen in a vacuum; it is usually undertaken within a physical and social space (Lester & Russell, 2008). One of the greatest benefits of playing is to assist with the development of social competence. Children can build relationships, learn to resolve conflicts, negotiate and regulate their behaviours. In play, children usually have increased feelings of success and optimism as they act as their own agents and make their own choices. Playing is a known stress release; it is often linked to child wellbeing.
The dispositions for learning, such as curiosity, openness, optimism, resilience, concentration, and creativity (SACSA, 2009), are developed in play. Playing is linked to the development of resilience and the beginnings of empathy as children begin to understand other points of view. However, not all play is kind or inclusive, so educators have to act accordingly to ensure that play is not harmful.
What educators can do
How can quality play-based learning take place effectively? Early childhood educators should know the children and families in their centre; they assess, document children’s learning and know their interests. Then, together with families, they plan carefully how to use play-based activities as one tool to promote the learning that will achieve the EYLF outcomes.
Planning the environment to assist children to achieve outcomes is important in providing quality play experiences. The environment can be intentionally planned in four main ways:
- the physical environment-the physical layout of space, furniture and resources. Consider how you will construct and present activities and materials so they are arranged in provoking and inviting ways to encourage exploration, learning and inquiry
- the social and emotional environment-children need secure, warm and trusting relationships so they are confidently supported in their explorations and risk taking. Assist children to make connections with others, develop friendships and regulate their behaviours. Together, children and adults set the emotional and social tone of the environment
- the intellectual environment-there are times to leave children to play freely and times for intentional conversation, a well-placed question or query that will extend children’s learning. Shared sustained conversations (Siraj-Blatchford, 2008) are the hallmark of effective early childhood educators
- the temporal environment-the way that educators decide to use the time available in the program. Children need large blocks of time to develop play themes and ideas.
Early childhood educators need to be articulate, to be able to justify clearly, provide evidence for and proclaim the benefits of play-based learning. The EYLF (2009) is based on sound, proven early childhood pedagogy and practice principles. However, for the EYLF to be implemented properly, all early childhood educators need to know what play is, why it is important, how to implement and assess a play-based program and their role in it.
Faculty of Education and the Arts
Edith Cowan University
Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (2005). Uniquely preschool: What research tells us about the ways young children learn. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 44-47.
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, being & becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR.
Lester, S. & Russell, S. (2008). Play for a change. Play policy and practice: A review of contemporary perspectives. Play England. Retrieved 21.6.2010 from http://www.worldleisure. org/pdfs/Copy%20of%20book_rev_play_for_change.pdf
South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability Framework (2009) Learners and Learning in the Early Years. Retrieved 15.6.2010 from http://www.sacsa. sa.edu.au/content/doc_fsrc.asp?ID=%7BDCB8452E-3D30-40E7-9C3C- 570AE5168C17%7D&sec=%7B25AAFB50-4954-457F-9426-FDB72E5202EF%7D
Shipley, D. (2008). Empowering children. Play based curriculum for lifelong learning.(Fourth edn). USA: Nelson Education.
Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2008). Understanding the relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and progression in learning in early childhood. Hong Kong Journal of Early Childhood, 7 (2), 6-13.
Steglin, D. A. (2005). Making the case for play policy: Research-based reasons to support play-based environments. Young Children, 60(2), 76-86.
Why play-based learning by Lennie Barblett was featured in Every Child Vol. 16 No. 3—Play and learning. Click here to purchase your copy today!
The Influence of Play on Child Development Essay
1162 Words5 Pages
Children develop normally when they are exposed to different types of play that allow them to express themselves while using their imaginations and being physically active. According to the Center for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness, “Play is child’s work”; this is true because it is a child’s job is to learn and develop in their first few years of life, in order for them to do this, they play (CHETNA). Not only is playing a child’s full time job, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights listed play as a right of every child (Ginsburg). Through their full time job of play, the children develop emotionally, socially, physically, and creatively. Children need to participate in child-led play in order to…show more content…
This allows both the adults and the children of the family to be on the same level which will help ease the communication between each party (Wegrman). When this communication is equal between all members, they can begin to play out the situations and resolve some of the negative emotions that are present.
Through play, children are also able to form relationships with their peers, therefore developing socially. They are able to “learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills” all of which are important skills in a child’s world as well as the adult world (Ginsberg 183). This is especially prevalent in young school age children, who have had relatively few social encounters without the presence of their parents before entering school. These young children will often make life time friends by sharing a popular treat at snack time or borrowing a color crayon to another child who has broken theirs.
Another benefit of child-led play is that children, while exploring, are being active and developing different motor skills. This physical play is developed by running, jumping, climbing, and anything that gets them moving in order to develop their muscle and body control (Pasquariello). While the children engage in this type of play, they are able to have fun while also maintaining a healthy body physic. With this they are able to maintain an average “height, weight, general appearance…. and