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::: our play based learning philosophy

As we start to branch out talking to a wide range of early years educators and university students, we are amazed at the differing views on what play based learning actually is!

As a summation, our thoughts on play based learning is that it is teaching the children as they like to learn – through play.

Play based learning does not mean that the children just do what they like all day. There will be times when the children come together as a group where they will learn to listen to each other, share information, follow rules and partake in group activities. Play based activities don’t replace intentional teaching, rather complement and enhance it!

In a play based learning setting children will be provided with long periods of uninterrupted play time. They will have the opportunity to follow their own interests. They are encouraged to initiate activities and be self directed with the support of their teachers. They learn to take ownership of their work. They will be gently moulded into independent children with initiative and the confidence to take risks, knowing that there is no right or wrong way.

Open ended play based learning focuses on the process not the product. It is the learning that is taking place that is the all important factor.

Many teachers, as we did, are now choosing to run indoor/outdoor programs and free snack times to enable and enhance the long stretches of uninterrupted play times. This of course is not always possible as the actual physical setup of the centre may not be conducive to it.

When you visit our Education Directory you will discover early childhood settings which reflect this philosophy.



20 Responses to “our play based learning philosophy”

  1. jeanne says:

    Sherry and Donna – perfectly written! I especially like “intentional teaching” being partners with play-based explorations – wonderful! The image of the child being competent and curious, inventors and thinkers, explorers and adventurers – makes for a joyful day at school for all! Oh, and Time Time Time for play 🙂 cheers Jeanne

    ::: Thanks Jeanne. Not only is it best for them as learners, it is best for us as teachers! 🙂 🙂

  2. Nathalie says:

    love love love 🙂 Playing is a child’s work this is how they learn and develop
    Play is necessary to every aspect of a child’s development because it is instrumental to their intellectual, physical, language, creativity and emotional and social domains of development. It is such an appropriate way of learning because children want to play; it is not forced but openly available to them to experience freely at any time.

    ::: Spot on Nathalie … beautifully put! 🙂 🙂

  3. Shi Jing says:

    I like how you described play as an enhancer of intentional teaching and that’s probably the Australian-trained EC educator in me. But I wonder if it is an accepted or relevant practice in other cultures in different parts of the world? Perhaps ‘play’ is defined in very different terms… just a thought 🙂

    ::: I suppose Chrys, we can only speak from an Australian perspective, but children the world over are still children … only separated by geography. 🙂 🙂

  4. I love your emphasis on open ended inquiry based learning through play.

    ::: Thanks Shiona. People need to understand that play based learning is not ‘free for all friday’. It’s educating children for life in the way they learn best – through play … As you yourself so well know. 🙂 🙂

  5. kylie says:

    I think that you are right in what you say. I find it wonderful that the children have been exposed to this way of teaching but it saddens me that they go to school and it is very structured….it’s a hard lesson for them to learn… I am a teacher and I try to balance it so the children have some preparation for school life.

    ::: Kylie, by letting the children play you are preparing them for life! 🙂 🙂

  6. Erin says:

    I totally agree – I think my own ideas of play based learning have changed even in the 8 months I’ve been out of uni.
    A colleague of mine says she agrees with me about play based learning, at the same time having the preschool class sitting learning letters through worksheets 🙁
    “Play based activities don’t replace intentional teaching, rather complement and enhance it!” – Love that! Good play based learning IS intentional teaching.
    So much of what a teacher does in a play based learning situation is in the way they interact with the children during play (that means actually interacting!), facilitating their learning through prompts and providing materials and documenting their learning so that others can see and understand as well! (sorry; bit of a rant, work may have been a little exasperating today . . . 🙂 )

    ::: We’re so pleased to hear that your philosophy is on line with ours Erin. We never have understood why a teacher would choose to replace intentional open ended play based learning child directed experiences with worksheets … Perhaps your colleague could explain it to us. 🙂 🙂

  7. Brenda says:

    I enjoyed this post on intentional learning, as it conceptulizes well a way to provide play based learning with boundaries. Children do need structure as well as lots of time to play and discover on their own.

    ::: You’re right Brenda … as we said in the post play based learning is not about free for all Friday. Play based learning is EDUCATING our children as they learn best – though play. 🙂 🙂

  8. aurore says:

    I LOVE your description of play-based learning. I am in Northern California and our center views play as you describe. Everything I do and place in the classroom environment is intentional and meant to provoke learning, development and inquiry. When I talk to people about play-based learning I like to describe play as my method of teaching.

    We too have an indoor/outdoor program and free snack time — it is so lovely to watch the children deeply engage until they are ready to move on.

    ::: Aurore, thank you for sharing that. We love hearing that a play based philosophy is being implemented in early childhood all over the world. 🙂 🙂

  9. Amy Kovy says:

    Our child also attends a Play Based Preschool in marin county ca. It’s crazy to me to see that there are less and less play based preschools in our area.

    ::: Thanks for sharing that Amy … it is so nice to hear that your child is being given such a wonderful start in life! 🙂 🙂

  10. Verity says:

    Im a student studying my Bachelor of Early Childhood education and I absolutley love your blog.
    Everytime I read it it makes me fee inspired to bring what you teach & believe in into my own teachings. I absolutley love the play based learning style and am hoping to find a place when i graduate I can implement this into.
    Thank you so much for filling my head with so many great ideas & helping me find a new love for what I do.

    ::: Verity THANK YOU for your lovely comment. We are delighted you are enjoying what we have to offer. Good luck with your studies and please continue to embrace the play based philosophy, and stay true to your beliefs when you graduate and take on your teaching role! 🙂 🙂

  11. Candy Lawrence says:

    Well said, thank you… I feel like copying this off and putting it up on the wall at one of the centres where I work. Getting the balance right is the trick, and neither the free-for-all where there are NO rules and NO scaffolding nor the ‘little school’ where conformity is the desired outcome feel right to me. Play-based learning doesn’t mean that you sit back and let it all happen 12 hours a day, but sometimes centres and carers take the EYLF as a free ticket to sitting on their hands. Yours is a very helpful way of expressing the place of teacher input and support in the EYLF.

    ::: Thank you Candy. If only everyone understood it the way you do. Maybe those centers and carers need to go back and take a good look at the EYLF which are telling them to educate children through play, not baby sit them! 🙂 🙂

  12. anne says:

    I like to think as myself as the “fetcher and carrier” as I dash about finding the things the children ask for or I know we have to enhance or to facilitate their play…yesterday we had a small table in the playground, being piled high with bark to make a birthday cake, using margarine containers as scoops (from our recycling). Someone found 5 crayons and yes they made great candles, and a very large group of children then burst into “Happy Birthday to you…” to a child “Mum” who was at work and had just come home!!! It’s quite amazing to watch their little minds at work isn’t it???

    ::: Oh Anne how beautiful! It’s so lovely to sit back and watch moments like that! 🙂 🙂

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  14. Laura says:

    After many years teaching in a play based program, I am grateful to have our philosophy so clearly explained! It is difficult to assure parents that their children will be better for these experiences. Two aspects of play standout in my mind as vital to success in school and life, resilience and self directed learning. Children are being raised in a bubble of protection by parents eager to give their children the best. When in fact, they never have the chance to fail, to take risks, be heard!
    Play on!

    ::: We couldn’t agree more Laura and how wonderful to think all of this can be achieved through play based learning. 🙂 🙂

  15. Exactly! I hadn’t understood the intentional piece until I interviewed Elena Bodrova here in Denver at McRel and she explained to me the difference btwn intentional play-based learning and a free for all. Because of that, I moved my daughter’s preschool. I think she said that if you see a kitchen in September and it’s still there in May, you’re not getting well-thought out play that facilitates learning. You want to see a rocket ship one month and a museum another.

    Love your blog and what you do!

    Melissa @imaginationsoup

    ::: Thank you Melissa … Elena Bodrova sound like a very wise person! 🙂 🙂

  16. Michelle how says:

    Wish there were schools like this too, at least for junior primary. 5 year old DS has just started at school after we had been leaning towards homeschooling but it wasn’t working for us, and asked “why can’t we just play sometimes at school? I need to get my playing out before I can do any work.” I suggested we ask the teacher if she could give them some playtime in the morning, he came back with “She’s a teacher, she knows what children like, she must know we like to play, she just wants us to work and that’s it”. Um yes, I think he’s right…

    ::: We think he’s right too Michelle. We also think it is the teachers who should be asking the children what they like to do, not the other way around. 🙁 🙁

  17. Skymax says:

    Our kids’ preschool really stressed play learning like this while we enforced play learning at home. They seem to be far more advanced compared to their piers now, so enriching play learning like this really has a positive impact.

  18. Alyssa says:

    I love this explanation! I just graduated from college with a teaching degree, and my college is very big on constructivist/play-based curriculum. However, the instant I utter the words “play-based” in a job interview, I usually get a few dirty looks or at least an eye roll. So frustrating.

    ::: Hmmmm … Sounds like we still have some work to do then Alyssa. With people like you out there however we are well on our way! 🙂 🙂

  19. Rachel says:

    Love your explanation,want to word something like this for the parents at our next information evening as we’re still getting parents wanting us to teach the children how to write,and one even suggested we do a letter of the week.We try and explain children learn better through play and show examples of name bingo and number snakes etc but it’s still a hurdle for us convincing the parents.

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