Play is natural, imaginative and motivating and provides children with opportunities to learn about themselves, one another and the world around them. Play experiences can cover multiple learning opportunities including the building of social and emotional skills needed to form relationships and adapt to new experiences. Whilst at play children can build on a receptive and expressive vocabulary needed to understand and communicate effectively as well as build on their characteristics of learning such as ‘having a go’ or persevering when faced with a tricky task, all of which are of prime importance to setting firm foundations for learning.
Children’s play has a purpose and it is in maximising these play experiences that our skilled practitioners see opportunities which enable them to teach children through their play.
Staff are knowledgeable about the importance of children’s play and the opportunities that this provides. They understand by knowing the child well when there is a need to stand back and observe a child’s play and when the opportunities exist to extend and teach.
They are able to recognise the moments for teaching when they arise and respond to them appropriately and sometimes, more importantly, knowing when their intervention would hinder or stifle a child’s learning.
Everyone in a child’s life is a teacher; other children, parents, grandparents and childcare professionals and we all have something to contribute to a child’s learning and development. A child may initiate an activity or a play experience or it may take a teacher (another child, parent etc) to ‘decide’ upon the activity. The teacher may have a predetermined activity and/or goal in mind but it will be the child themselves who decides on their own unique journey. It is the quality of that teaching and the quality of the interactions which determine the learning experiences of the child.
There are many differing ways in which we as adults help young children to learn including meaningful and purposeful interactions whilst children are actively involved in playful experiences. Both adult-led and child-initiated play and activities offer opportunities for communicating and modelling language, questioning, recalling, explaining and providing a narrative. Children will share and explore ideas and set challenges if they are given the resources, equipment and physical environment to do so.