It is difficult to separate learning from play in childhood. Play is an avenue for children to learn and develop as they climb, build, paint, sing and dress up. This is why play-based learning in early childhood education is so valuable.
An early childhood educator’s role is to provide children with an environment that inspires them to play. Maths Is All Around You is a perfect example of this. It shows educators how a play-based learning curriculum can foster early years maths understanding.
Likewise, as educators observe children at play, they can show them what they are learning or have learnt. You’re Telling the Story is a great demonstration of this.
Browse our selection of play-based learning resources. You will discover play-based learning activities that bring adventure, exploration, interaction and plenty of fun!
Play-based learning, simply, is to learn while at play. As described by Pyle (2018), “Play-based learning is a pedagogical approach that emphasises the use of play in promoting multiple areas of children’s development and learning.” These include social, emotional, cognitive and physical development.
Play-based learning allows for different types of play, which are best viewed as a continuum.
At one end of the continuum is child-directed play, or free play. This is characterised as spontaneous play freely chosen by the child. There is little adult involvement or interaction.
At the other end of the spectrum is adult-led play. This is play that is organised and directed by an adult. There may be instructions, but it remains open-ended.
Play-based learning activities provide children with opportunities to learn as they explore, create, improvise and imagine.
Play-based learning is important because it is a powerful mode of learning. Children use their creativity, are active, interact with other children and solve problems as they play. This leads to cognitive, emotional, social and physical development.
For example, as one of our play-based learning resources, Adventurous Play, says:
Above all, play-based learning activities are valuable because of the simple joy they foster. Play provides happiness, freedom and joyful childhood memories.
Play-based learning is defined in the Early Year Learning Framework (EYLF) as a means of learning that enables children to make sense of their world as they actively engage with people, objects and representations. These approaches allow for different types of play, from child-directed to adult-led.
The EYLF also recognises the “intentional roles” of children and educators in children’s learning. For example, when children decide whom to invite into their play. Similarly, an educator creates an outdoor environment for climbing.
According to the EYLF (EYLF V2.0, 2022), “Play provides both a context (a place or space where children play) and a process (a way of learning and teaching) where children can ask questions, solve problems and engage in critical thinking.”
Play-based learning in early childhood education is seen as a way to promote positive attitudes towards learning and encourage a desire to learn.