What is Play, Anyway?

At Flinders we talk a lot about play. Play based learning, play based curriculum, free play, guided play, role modelled play, spontaneous play…the list goes on! But recently it has become clear that our understanding of play is not universal. In fact, despite the introduction of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the concept of play is not even consistent across early childhood education services.

The EYLF states;

Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine…Play provides a supportive environment where children can ask questions, solve problems and engage in critical thinking. Play can expand children’s thinking and enhance their desire to know and learn¬†(pg 15)

When the EYLF talks about play, it is talking about a very specific kind of play. And at Flinders, we are talking about a very specific kind of play too. Play that is focused, deliberate and engaging, play in which children are deeply involved, this is the kind of play that is a context for learning.

Although children are hard wired for play, the kind of play that fosters deep level learning that relates to a range of outcomes and content areas does not always happen naturally. This kind of play requires certain conditions to grow; inspiring environments, flexible resources, a wide range of opportunities, and intentional educators. Each child may also require a different entry point or invitation, or a methodology that is unique to them.

Educators need to be responsive, observant and aware in order to create conditions for learning through play. They need to document, think, reflect, review and change their practice and pedagogy. They need to work closely with children in order to know what invitation or provocation is right for them.

Perhaps most importantly, play is not an exclusive world for children with educators acting only as supervisors. In order for children to learn through play, they need educators who are able to pick the right moment to extend, intervene, or step back.

So when your child goes home at the end of the day, and in response to the question ‘What did you do today?’ replies ‘Played’, you can know it was much more than that.

What is Play, Anyway?

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