5 tips for… Learning Through Play

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The third blog post in the Practices series looks at Learning Through Play. Here are 5 tips to help with this practice …

  1. Provide play based experiences: Play based experiences are engaging, meaningful, child directed, open ended (in regards to outcomes &/or time), and inclusive. All children can engage in play based experiences at their own level and still have the opportunity to learn and develop. It is important to do an audit of your environment and your resources and check how play based learning is supported and whether it meets the criteria mentioned above. If children cannot explore and investigate, resourcing their own learning and challenging their own ideas then it is difficult to provide evidence of play based learning, and also compliance of most of Quality Area 1.
  2. Value play based learning: Play is how children learn. There is vast amounts of research on the matter supporting how important it is to provide play based learning opportunities and how to support children through this. The basic premise is that the more children are in control of their own learning the more engaged and connected they are to it, which allows for more information to be retained. However play based learning still requires educator support and that brings us on to the next tip…
  3. Be an active participant: The role of the educator in play based learning is to role model, support, resource, challenge, engage and invite children’s development. It is not passive supervision of the children, it is also not directed learning, it is a form of collaboration in the play. Educators need to demonstrate dispositions such as curiosity, resilience, exploration, planning, risk taking, social engagement, perseverance, problem solving, creativity and so on to support children to engage in play at a deeper level too. Through playing alongside children and being flexible in your approaches and engagement you support children to learn these dispositions and build their confidence to engage deeply in play.
  4. Advocate for play based learning: One of the points of the ECA Code of Ethics is that “in relation to children, I will […] understand and be able to explain to others how play and leisure enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing“. This means being able to demonstrate how learning occurs during play, how this is supported by research and theory and how this occurs in your service. This may be in newsletters, through your observations, in discussions with families, through your philosophy and so forth. There is a big misconception among non-early childhood qualified people that play is for leisure, not for learning, and the more you can demonstrate how it achieves both the more you advocate.
  5. Use play as a foundation for learning opportunities: Observing how children play can be a great way to assess children’s learning, challenge children’s skills and knowledge, identify interests and more. The way children engage can also drive decisions around the environment, resources purchased, and projects implemented into the program. As such play based learning should be valued as a fantastic opportunity to develop educator’s knowledge and understanding of the needs of their children and the direction of their program, not a time to sit and catch up on documentation or other tasks while the children are off playing.


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