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Posted On: 22 November 2020 05:03 pm
Updated On: 23 November 2020 10:39 am

Why is play-based early years education important for your child?

Vrinda Abilash
Vrinda Abilash
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The term play has a vast meaning. When it comes to the early education of a child, play is child-led and the teachers are the drivers of play. Teachers facilitate the entire process for the child by observing and increasing the difficulty of skills through a variety of models that can include question-based activities, role play and even engaging the kids in other play-based activities. Play is very important because it allows learners, in this case, children, to develop the complete IB learner profile which also enhances their risk-taking, inquiring and communicating attributes.

Image Credit: Swiss International School Qatar

Play is owned by the children (Bottrill, 2018). Play allows children to become more inquisitive, hands-on, experience real-life situations and understand the world around them in a better way. Through play, children understand their strengths and weaknesses. During early years learning, the facilitators of play should make it meaningful and make it intrinsically motivational for the children. This allows them to hone their skills better and helps improve their knowledge.

What are the different stages of play?

Image Credit: Swiss International School Qatar

The following are the 6 stages of play, according to Mildred Parten, an American sociologist who conducted different research about children and their development through play.

The Different Types of Play

  • Sensory Play - play that allows exploration using their senses. This includes sand, rice, water and dirt play.
  • Construction Play - manipulating while creating or building with natural or manmade materials.
  • Rough-and-Tumble Play - includes chasing, wrestling, spinning, climbing, rolling and play fighting. This is not a violent play but is sometimes discouraged by adults.
  • Large-motor Play - includes large movement activities including running, jumping, dancing, swinging. This may be with or without equipment.
  • Dramatic Play - includes imaginative and pretend play. Children may pretend they are adults doing a task.
  • Exploration Play - playing with something to discover how to use it in a variety of situations.
  • Role Play - exploring real-life situations like driving a car or cooking in a kitchen.
  • Language / Communication Play - involves language such as singing or talking either in a real language or a made-up language.
  • Socio-dramatic Play - play that is very similar to role-playing but includes situations that involve social interaction like going to the shops, being a waitress in a restaurant or a teacher in a classroom.
  • Social Play - involves rules set by the children or through socio-dramatic play situations.
  • Small-motor Play - involves fine motor skills like lego, stringing beads and sorting objects.
  • Symbolic Play - allows children to use their imagination to use one object for another purpose, for example - a book for a phone or a spoon as a wand.
  • Mastery Play - allows children to develop skill through play such as bouncing a ball or playing a musical instrument.
  • Risky Play - play that allows children to learn about their limits and may seem to adults as unsafe. This could include climbing trees, climbing and hammering with nails and wood.
  • Recapitulative Play - there is a large focus on outdoor play in the recapitulative play. Children would learn how to play in forests, rivers, pools or other outdoor environments. This could include risky play where children use equipment such as chainsaws and build fires. This play allows children to build a sense of limitations.
  • Digital/technology Play - playing games on a digital device such as an iPad or computer.

What is the teacher’s role here?

Early Years teachers have an extensive understanding of the child’s learning outcomes. Teachers encourage children to become inquirers. While teachers have a direction of learning planned, when the children are exposed to the provocation, the teachers have the power to direct their learning.

As said earlier, teachers are the facilitators of learning through play. Teachers provide them with a variety of opportunities to collaborate with their peers and observe the outcomes. They encourage communication and self-management skills in children. Teachers evaluate each learner's progress through a developmental assessment which includes observation, work samples, classroom discussions and interviews. Itis an ongoing process which happens in all different situations.

Teachers provide and encourage the use of classroom equipment. The classroom equipment, including toys, art materials, writing and other equipment used for learning are kept in easily accessible spots around the classroom. The learners are free to choose what they would like to use.

Teachers continuously ask questions and do not provide the answers, observing the results. For example, they will question children about what they are playing. This helps to spark the child’s imagination thereby helping in increasing their knowledge through the medium of play.

Overall, teachers provide numerous opportunities for students to expand their knowledge through play that is fun and interactive.

At Swiss International School Qatar, the Early Years Department is a play-based learning environment. The early learners are encouraged to become inquirers through play, collaboration and problem-solving. The Early Years Department is a part of the primary program with intentional outcomes that are met through play. Students are allowed to build their communication, research, thinking, social and self-management skills for a variety of play experiences. These practices help students to become open-minded, caring and balanced global citizens. In Early Years, Swiss International School Qatar accepts children who are 3 years old in Pre-K 1 and accept children who are 4 years old in Pre-K 2.

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Are you ready to give your children the right start they need? What are your views on play-based early years education for your children? Do let us know in the comments below! Do share this article – it keeps us going!

Written by Kate Flood, Head of Early Years - Swiss International School Qatar
Copy edited by Vrinda Abilash

Sources: Bottrill, G. (2018). Can I go & play now?: Rethinking the early years. Los Angeles: SAGE, Robinson, C., Treasure, T., O'Connor, D., Neylon, G., Harrison, C., & Wynne, S. (2018). Learning through play: Creating a play-based approach within early childhood contexts. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.,, Michigan State University, Swiss International School Qatar
Cover image credit: Swiss International School Qatar