Why do we play all day?

As Early Childhood Professionals we are often questioned about our play based pedagogy and how children are learning in an environment where there appears to be no structure and children are free to ‘play’.

There is always some form of structure in play – it’s just not our adult view of structure. Children are expertly aware of the boundaries THEY establish in their play and the sophisticated thinking they use to adopt roles, bounce ideas off each other and follow their own play scripts frequently leaves me speechless. Often when the word ‘structure’ is used in education, it is really describing experiences that are ‘closed’ or ‘teacher directed’. Children do not need us to give them a purpose for their play. Their play is already purposeful for them. Putting an educator’s lens on children’s play might instead call us to listen and observe intensely to hypothesise about what the child’s purpose may be, rather than impose our own on them. (Lisa Burman – Consulting in Pedagogical Growth, 2018).

Our Centre philosophy which guides our pedagogy and practices, identifies play as being one of our core values in the way children learn. We believe, play is:

  • Children’s work.
  • Occurs and has equal value in both the outdoor and indoor learning environments.
  • Occurs in environments which are inviting and engaging through the use of inspiring spaces.
  • Is supported and learning maximised through periods of uninterrupted play.
  • Is supported through open ended learning experiences, which reflect the voices of children.
  • Is supported through the Nature play pedagogy.
  • Is promoted by Educators who are advocates for children’s play and children’s right to play.
  • Is supported through the use of loose parts both natural and manufactured materials.
  • Is supported through authentic materials and resources.

Play also fosters children’s dispositions which are important for life long learning. When engaged in their play children are developing their curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination, resourcefulness and risk taking. Play also provides opportunities for problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating. Children are able to transfer and adapt what they have learnt from one context to another and share their ideas and theories with others without the fear of not meeting a standard or particular expectation.

The Early Years Learning Framework – Belonging, Being and Becoming identifies the importance of play as a pedagogy to support children in their learning. Children’s development in each of the five learning outcomes is supported through a play-based curriculum. The outcomes are:

  1. Children have a strong sense of identity.
  2. Children are connected and contribute to their world.
  3. Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
  4. Children are confident and involved learners.
  5. Children are effective communicators.

Yes we do play all day, but we are also learning all day too!