Importance of play-based learning in Early Childhood Education and Care
Play is an essential part of a child's life. It is vital for the all-round development of the children i.e. physical, social, emotional, cognitive. Children are curious by nature and their desire to investigate and inquire motivate them to explore their environment and create a base for them to learn about the world around them.
Benefits of Play-based learning program
Being an Early Childhood Educator in ECEC I have seen the immense pleasure and state of happiness on children's face when they are engaged in a play-based learning environment. The amount of energy, zeal and knowledge they apply to solve a problem or investigate the matters/ issues is unmeasurable. The age-appropriate learning environment in compliance with NQS and guided by EYLF provides ample opportunities for children which supports children's knowledge and skills. It facilitates children with problem-solving skills, self-regulate emotions, creativity, decision-making, teamwork, resilience, sharing and to socialize in small and bigger groups which further guides children to make better choices in life and teach them lifelong skills.
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‘‘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 to learn. In these ways play can promote positive dispositions towards learning. Children’s immersion in their play illustrates how play enables them to simply enjoy being”. (Early Years Framework for Australia (The) Belonging, Being and Becoming – pg 17)
To achieve a better understanding of the process of development and learning through play various theories have come to light which gives educators an insight into this matter. As stated,"
‘‘Over the last century, educators have drawn on a range of theories of development and learning, including maturational theory (Gessell), psychoanalytic theory (Freud), psychosocial theory (Erikson), behavioural theory (Skinner), social learning theory (Bandura) and theories of cognitive development (Piaget, Vygotsky). They have also drawn on theories of social play (Parten), cognitive connection and play (Piaget) and theories emphasising particular types of play, such as sociodramatic play (Smilanksy). Each of these theories has contributed to the knowledge base of early childhood education’’. (Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S. & Farmer, S., 2018, pg72)
On the basis of the guidance shown in the research theories, educators develop a criteria of certainly expected progress and learning in terms of physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language areas through early years among children which I believe are also affected by other factors in context to children's family background, community they live in or belong to, cultural background and educational settings. Hence all these factors play an important role in the development and learning of a child.
Various pedagogical practices have been founded and are being practised by teachers and educators worldwide to support children's learning and education. A child's learning is impacted by the quality of pedagogical interactions between educators and children at ECEC and the quality of interactions and nature of experiences at home.
‘‘All the deliberate actions and processes that educators use to translate philosophy and approaches to curriculum into practice can be seen as pedagogies. These include organising and implementing family communication and relationships, interactions with children, intentional teaching strategies, documentation of learning, learning experiences and learning environments’’. (Arthur et al., 2018, pg231).
My Pedagogical Approach:
I believe in child-centred, play-based and reflective pedagogical approach which facilitates qualitative, educative, informative, and practical learning environments for children for their all-round development. As stated," Promoting play-based learning requires an adult to rethink their notions of play and develop programs that integrate play and learning into the curriculum". (Debbie Cole, pg 20).
Role of EYLF and NQS in shaping Pedagogical Practices
EYLF and NQF guide and encourages educators to follow practices and principles in their pedagogical practice to facilitate quality of education and curriculum.
‘‘Educators' professional judgements are central to their active role in facilitating children's learning. In making professional judgements, they weave together their:
- professional knowledge and skills
- knowledge of children, families and communities
- awareness of how their beliefs and values impact on children's learning
- personal styles and past experiences.
They also draw on their creativity, intuition and imagination to help them improvise and adjust their practice to suit the time, place and context of learning’’. (Early Years Framework for Australia (The) Belonging, Being and Becoming, pg-12).
For a meaningful learning program and to achieve the five learning outcomes it is vital to keep insight into the principles and practices. I would take the following steps as guidance to prepare my play-based program:
- Relationship with children and families: It is very important to have a trustworthy, open and communicable relationship with the children and their families. There should a form of communication for parents which is easily accessible and understandable for them to ask queries and pass the required and important information about the child which is directly or in a context related to the child.
- Reflective Practice: One of the other important aspects is to reflect on your current practice and keep a track of what went well and what can be improved and how it can be done. Review, rethink and reflect to analyse the program efficiency, collect evidence to assess shortcomings is a good practice to learn innovative methods of teaching and enhancing your knowledge to do better. It supports Principle 5- Ongoing learning and reflective practice. Learning Outcome-4 children are confident and involved learners. Practice 8- Assessment for learning.
- Respect for Diversity: We live in a multicultural society and we get to meet and teach children belonging to different cultures. It is a great opportunity for children to learn about different cultures through celebrations of various festivals of cultural importance, beliefs, special days/occasions. It also provides children with an opportunity to be resilient, to share and a feeling of brotherhood and above all humanity. Inculcating these values is essential for children in early years. It supports learning outcome 2: Children are connected with and contributed to their world. Practice 6-Cultural competence. Principle2- Partnerships
- Ensuring social and emotional security: I personally strongly believe in assuring social and emotional wellbeing of the child. It is natural that when as adults we are happy inside we feel strong mentally and physically which gives us the courage to fight the challenges of life and energizes us to learn and aspire. It is the same with children if a child is not happy and is feeling insecure, distressed; it will impact the learning and development of the child. A happy mind is equally proportionate to a happy life. It supports learning outcome 1- children have a strong sense of identity. Principle1- Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships. Practice11- Holistic approaches.
- Physical environment and Health and Safety: Physical Environment is an important factor which can't be ignored. Providing children with clean and inviting learning spaces both Indoors and outdoors is essential. Keeping health and safety as top priority cleanliness and the hazard-free environment in compliance with NQS should be organised and provided to children at all times in an educational setting. It promotes learning outcome 3- children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
- Intentional teaching/ scaffolding: I support intentional teaching as it is important to facilitate knowledge and learning experiences to children which are age-appropriate and challenge their prior knowledge to give it a shape and extend on it. Children have a million ways to learn and express themselves and it is educator's responsibility to support a child in finding their ‘silver lining' as the famous phrase goes," Every cloud has a silver lining". Scaffolding is another teaching technique which can help children in the process of learning and is also supportive of challenging children's choices in play. Through intentional scaffolding which is based on providing hints to the child, choices of answers and range of resources; children become confident, it encourages awareness, social and academic development. It encourages children to challenge their learning capabilities and thinking. Teachers can enhance a child’s learning capabilities by asking open-ended questions, demonstrations and meaningful interactions. This promotes learning outcome 5- Children are effective communicators. Practice 4-Intentional teaching. Principle 4- High expesctations and equity.
- Supporting Risky play and challenging children choices in play: Risk and challenges are part and parcel of life. These cannot be removed or banned. As a teacher, it is very important to understand the potential risks and its remedy and also when and how to support a child's learning through risky play.
‘‘This involves a mixture of observation, timing, and intervention. Your role includes being both an observer and a facilitator. As an observer, you need to watch for the teachable moment, that moment when you can see that a child is ready to try something in a new way’’. (Church.E, n.d)
Risky play and challenging situations help children to be patient, persevere, apply knowledge and brain, increases self- confidence. This promotes Practice 5- Learning environments.
- Conclusion: The aforesaid views in the essay explains the importance of play-based learning in early years and how the with right knowledge and guidance of EYLF and NQF principles/practices a pedagogical practice is developed whilst focussing on the five learning outcomes. These learning outcomes serve as the bases of curriculum and help the teacher to plan, do, review their program based on children's interests and irrespective of their culture, background, learning capabilities, social circumstances, physical disability. The EYLF supports all children under one roof and encourages to foster inclusive practice in ECEC.
- Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S. & Farmer, S. (2018). Programming and Planning in Early Childhood Settings (7th Edition)
- Cole, D (n.d). Play Based Learning. Retrieved from http://www.ascotkindergarten.vic.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Play-based-learning.pdf
- Church. E. (n.d). When to Challenge Children. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/when-challenge-children/
- Early Years Framework for Australia (The) Belonging, Being and Becoming. Retrieved from https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf
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