Learning through Play

So what is learning through play?

Play based learning is a type of early childhood education based on child led and open ended play.

Learning through play is a term often used in education and psychology settings to describe how a child can learn. The central idea is that children's natural curiosity will take them through the learning journey as they develop.

child playing with coloured blocks


How do children learn through play?

With play based learning, children have the freedom to choose their own activities. The space is broken up into sections that often included a block area, role play area, a reading nook, puzzle tables, art easels along with outdoor sections for climbing and balancing activities.

Children will actively explore their environment and the world around them through play. They develop skills and learn according to their own natural rhythms.

When a child plays individually and with others their cognitive skills, such as thinking, learning, remembering and paying attention are all being stimulated.

Children develop cognitive skills such as problem solving, creativity and the power of imagination through play.

The development of social skills is a crucial part of a child's development – and through play, children will learn how to interact with others, co-operate, negotiate, share and manage their emotions. 
Learning how to play with others requires compromise, conflict resolution and sharing which are all important areas of early development.

Play also enhances both gross and fine motor skills involving control of the arms, legs, head, and trunk. By offering opportunities to run, jump, climb, throw, push and pull children are constantly developing their motor skills through play in new and fun ways.

Milestones such as social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language development are all promoted in play based learning environments.


child role playing with doctors kit 


What are some early childhood education methods that offer elements of play based learning?

Most will be familiar with the Montessori method of education which involves lot's of hands of learning and child-led activities. Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician and anthropologist who devoted her life to understanding how children develop socially, intellectually, physically, and spiritually.

Her observations of children around the world, discovered some universal patterns of development which are found in all children regardless of their culture or the era in which they live.

The core of the Montessori teaching method is the idea that students are naturally curious and thrive in mixed-age classrooms focused on hands-on discovery and self-motivated growth.


With the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, young children are viewed as individuals who are curious about their world and have the powerful potential to learn from all that surrounds them.

This philosophy values the child as central to their own learning, not simply an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge.

Reggio Emilia is also based on the “hundred languages of children” philosophy, which refers to the many ways children have to express their thoughts and emotions.


Waldorf is an educational philosophy based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.  Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian scientist, philosopher and artist who lived from 1861-1925. One of his beliefs was that humanity needs to work organically in co-operation with nature, not against it. He sounded warning bells about many issues, such as sustainability and depletion of human and natural resources, which are of wide concern today.

This teaching method aims to create well-rounded students by offering a holistic education of academics, art, music, physical education, social education, and emotional education.


Bush Kindy is largely emergent, child directed and play based, allowing young curious learners the time and space to develop their interests, skills and understanding through practical, hands on experiences.

Bush kindergartens have drawn inspiration from European forest preschools, the development of bush kinders in Australia reflects the mounting body of evidence that outdoor activities such as exploring nature, is of great benefit to children and contribute to improving a child's health and wellbeing.


Language immersion is an educational technique in which students learn in a language other than their native tongue. Schools often focus on English and one other language. This method is designed to promote bilingualism. Role play is often used in language immersion programs as well as play based learning activities.

The core philosophy of a language immersion school is that language is best learned through daily immersion, rather than through one course.


There are many Early Childhood educational facilities to choose from which incorporate both mixes of tradition and modern methods regarding Learning through Play, ultimately the style a family adopts will no doubt be what is best suited to a families own philosophies and lifestyle. 

A good starting point when looking for a childhood education setting for your child is to attend open days, this is a great way to talk to educators and look around the facilities. There will often be other parents there that you can chat to and gain some insights into the inner workings.


child playing outdoors with a pretend play camera


Ways to promote learning through play at home...

Provide resources and activities that suit children’s own ages, interests, strengths, and abilities that will stimulate and support play. Resources which allow open ended use such as blocks or outdoor spaces along with cardboards boxes and drawing materials will help to promote creativity.

Observing your child as they play helps you to understand how they play with other children and what skills they demonstrate in play. Observing will help to identify areas to strengthen and encourage.

Provide lots of uninterrupted time for play to allow for children’s ideas and games to develop naturally.

Joining in play enables you to extend the child’s learning and to model skills such as reasoning, appropriate language, and positive behaviours.

parent and child playing together on floor

Have fun...Get down on the floor or head outdoors and PLAY!

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