What exactly is play-based learning?

Play-based learning is a type of early childhood education based on child-led and open-ended play. If you’re picturing preschoolers finger painting or ‘playing house’, you’re spot on.

Play itself is a voluntary, enjoyable activity with no purpose or end goal. Believe it or not, activities like this lay the foundation for a child to become a curious and excited learner later in life. Play-based learning helps children develop social skills, motivation to learn, and even language and numeracy skills. Taking initiative, focused attention, and curiosity about the world are all a part of play.

Environment & Sustainabilityas possible.
Environment & Sustainability

Elements of play-based learning

Play-based learning includes the following elements:

  • Self chosen: A child voluntary chooses to play, how they’ll play, and for how long. An adult may initiate play insofar as he or she invites or suggests play but the child determines the rest.
  • Enjoyable: Play is enjoyable for the child. This emotional aspect is important. There may be some frustrations or disagreements during play but overall it’s pleasurable.
  • Unstructured: A child has ample time to explore and discover during play. They’re directed by their own interests, not by any prescribed rules or plans.
  • Process-oriented: There is no end or learning goal. Instead, it’s the process of play that’s important.
  • Make believe: Play often involves imagination, ‘make believe’, or ‘playing pretend’.

What our educators do

At Kids & Co Early Learning Centre our educators know the children and families in our 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.