"She was able to socially interact with children older than her which was a huge positive for her development skills - she even learned to recognize sign language!" ~Melissa

Play-Based Learning

Studies have shown that child-centered, play-based learning is the most appropriate and effective method of learning for children. Through play, children develop essential life skills and lay the foundation for success in school, and adulthood.

What is Play-Based Learning?

Play-Based LearningAccording to the Early Years Learning Framework of Australia, play-based learning is "a context for learning through which children organise (sic) and make sense of their social worlds, as they engage actively with people, objects and representations."

Play-based learning builds new knowledge on prior experience and encourages children to build social skills and relationships. While playing children learn to solve problems, try out new ideas and experiences, and explore the world around them.

The Power of Play-Based Learning

Play is extremely important to children's learning because it prepares children for formal "school" learning. Play provides the foundation children need to learn abstract ideas such as letters (which are symbols for sounds) and numbers (which are symbols for number concepts). Children who are allowed large blocks of time for play have time to pretend, imitate, experiment, explore, problem-solve, cooperate, and learn how to form relationships.

Play-Based Learning Environments

Environments that promote learning through play don't look like the traditional classrooms many of us grew up in. Instead of a group of children quietly working on a worksheet, play-based learning is often chaotic, messy, and loud. Teachers don't choose or direct play, but plan for learning by creating an engaging environment and allowing large blocks of uninterrupted time for play. Children choose play activities based on their current interests, freely moving from one activity to another as their interests change. Learning occurs spontaneously as the children interact with each other and the environment.

Play-Based Learning Centers

Learning centers are where the real "work" of learning happens. While playing learning centers children develop independence, practice decision making, and develop longer attention spans. In addition, carefully planned learning centers reinforce skills and concepts, and enable individual learning goals to be met. The teacher's role is to observe, facilitate social skills, and be prepared to help extend the play as needed.

Click on a learning center link below to discover what your child learns as he/she plays in each area, and ways you can extend the learning at home:

Play-Based Art Experiences

Play-Based Learning - ArtThrough art experiences your child:

  • Observes cause and effect.
  • Expresses his/her feelings and imagination.
  • Enjoys the creative process.
  • Learns how to use art materials like paint, scissors, and glue.

At home: Provide simple art materials like paper, crayons, markers, magazines to cut, and glue. Understand that your child will be much more interested in the creative process he/she is going though than the finished product. Be sure to say "Tell me about..." instead of "What is it?"

Play-Based Learning with Blocks

Play-Based Learning - BlocksWhen building with blocks your child:

  • Learns to share and play with others.
  • Explores the pre-math concepts of size, shape, weight, balance, height and depth.
  • Uses his imagination to make something from his mind's eye.
  • Solves construction problems.

At home: Blocks don't need to be expensive to foster learning. At home you can provide Duplos, alphabet blocks, or homemade blocks of milk cartons and newspaper to provide as rich a learning experience as pricey hardwood blocks.

Children's Books and Play-Based Learning

Play-Based Learning - BooksBy spending time with books your child:

  • Lays the foundation for future learning success.
  • Expands his/her vocabulary.
  • Understands symbols as they relate to real-life objects.
  • Predicts and applying previous knowledge.

At home: Help your child become a reader by surrounding him/her with books and reading together every day. Becoming a good reader is one of the most important skills in becoming a successful learner

Play-Based Learning with Cooking

Play-Based Learning - CookingCooking helps your child:

  • Learns about nutrition.
  • Practices following directions.
  • Use all five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste.
  • Strengthens problem-solving skills.
  • Discovers science concepts, like the properties of matter.

At home: Encourage children's interest in cooking by allowing them to help in the kitchen. Young children can tear lettuce for a salad or slice bananas with a plastic knife.

Play-Based Learning through Dramatic Play

Play-Based Learning - Dramatic PlayWhen playing in the housekeeping area your child:

  • Explores the roles of mother, father, children, and pets.
  • Actively uses his/her imagination.
  • Practices cooperating with other children.
  • Sorts objects into categories.
  • Learns about him/herself and others.

At home: Play "make believe" with your child at home; have a tea party in the bathtub or play "mail man" with junk mail. Take advantage of opportunities to foster your child's creativity.

Music and Movement are Play-Based Learning

Play-Based Learning - MusicWhen your child sings, dances or listens to music she:

  • Develops self-awareness and greater muscle control.
  • Increases her self-esteem.
  • Expresses herself and her ideas creatively.
  • Enriches vocabulary with new words.
  • Learns to appreciate different types of music.

At home: Encourage music development by listening to live and recorded music from different cultures, time periods and in different styles.

Play-Based Learning Outdoors

Play-Based Learning - OutdoorsWhen your child plays outdoors, he/she:

  • Learns how to use his/her body effectively.
  • Develops his creatively.
  • Develops his/her knowledge of the natural world using real objects.
  • Practices mathematical and scientific thinking skills.
  • Lowers stress levels and strengthens his/her immune system.

At home: Go on a "listening" walk with your child. Point out the sounds of birds, passing cars, whistling wind, even your footsteps and discuss which are loud and which are soft, which are high and which are low, and what are their favorite sounds.

Sensory Activities are Play-Based Learning

Play-Based Learning - SensoryWhile playing in the sensory table your child:

  • Is soothed through his/her sense of touch.
  • Learns about size, measurement, and other early math skills .
  • Increases concentration and attention on a task.
  • Reinforces color and shape recognition.
  • Experiences science concepts like cause and effect.

At home: Encourage children's interest in cooking by allowing them to help in the kitchen. Young children can tear lettuce for a salad or slice bananas with a plastic knife.

Play-Based Learning with Toys, Games and Puzzles

Play-Based Learning - ToysWhen your child plays games, puts together puzzles, or plays with toys, he/she:

  • Improves his/her eye-hand coordination.
  • Practices sharing and taking turns.
  • Uses his/her senses to explore.
  • Develops classifying, sorting, predicting, and problem solving skills.
  • Learns about shapes, sizes, weights, and textures.

At home: Spend time playing with your child; putting together puzzles, playing games and sorting their pieces, and asking questions to extend your child's thinking.

Play-Based Curriculum

I follow the Creative Curriculum for Family Child Care, a play-based program that provides age-appropriate learning for children of all ages while supporting the special characteristics of a home-style learning environment. Visit the child care curriculum page for more information.

Play Based Learning - Girls Playing


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