Why a play based curriculum for pre-school?

Posted on May 12, 2015

Thoughts from Mrs Linda Bialous, Pre-School Director, Arden Anglican School

At Arden our aim is for the children to be engaged in fun learning exploration where they develop positive attitudes, self-esteem and most importantly a ‘love of learning’. Children need time to ‘be’ to have fun, explore and discover. We believe learning should be fun!

Research indicates that between the ages of 0 – 5 years children’s brain development is the highest it will ever be. Children of this age are like ‘sponges’ – everything that they see, touch, do or hear they soak up into their brain. This is why pre-school is a very important time for children to be immersed in many engaging learning experiences.

Children learn through ‘play’. Play offers children so many amazing hands-on learning opportunities. They learn to understand the world they live in as they communicate, discover, imagine and create. As educators we make it our job to know all of our children extremely well. Knowing and being responsive to their interests and abilities guides us in planning positive learning experiences. Using our children’s ideas and interests we deliberately create learning environments that encourage the children to become engaged and explore, experiment, solve problems, create and construct.

Using those ‘teachable moments’ which occur every day to build on children’s learning is important. If the children are engaged in what they are doing, they will learn a wide range of skills without even knowing it. Their learning is then extended through educators’ open ended questioning which challenges their thinking and guides learning

Research suggests that children need to be socially and emotionally ready for school. Encouraging each child’s self-confidence and positive self- image is the foundation on which development in all areas is built. Through play children have opportunities to engage with their peers. They explore social relationships, develop their social and communication skills, build resilience and develop positive attitudes and self-esteem.

A play based program incorporates so many learning opportunities that are linked to children’s academic development, especially in literacy and numeracy. The foundations of literacy and numeracy and other pre-academic skills are developed both in the context of play, and through responsive and intentional teaching. As educators we look for opportunities to engage children in learning about numeracy and literacy concepts such as counting, ordering, weight, shapes, language skills listening and comprehending, listening for sounds, developing letter recognition and rhyming (as a few examples) in a play based context.

As an example of play based learning, we might talk about sea creatures if some children have been to the aquarium and the beach during the school holidays. An interest table would be set up for the children, with the children given time to look through the books and handle the range of sea items on the table. They might listen to sea shell sounds and take turn to discuss what they heard. As children engage in conversations and ask questions they are developing their language skills. We might use an i-Pad to help them discover how to find the shells and their names. We might buy a real crab and bring it in for the children to touch and look at, leading to many more questions and discussions and opportunities for children to share their knowledge with their friends. Other children might draw the crab. All of these skills are important foundations for later literacy and numeracy learning in formal schooling.

The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia reminds us to focus on a child’s “being” as well as a child’s “becoming”. That is, a recognition of the here and now as well as future development and transitions. At Arden we believe learning environments should be fun, exciting, spontaneous, hands-on, stimulating, challenging and provide opportunities for children to explore, discover, create, experiment, solve problems and express ideas with the support of friends and educators.