Huippu Education - Nov 27, 2019

Four perspectives on play based learning

When children explore the world around them and try to make sense of it all, they have one powerful tool to use: play. In play, children practice their intellectual, social, emotional and physical skills. They create and test hypotheses, solve problems, negotiate, compromise and cooperate.

P – Play has many forms

There are many ways to categorize play. Short-term and long term play, free play and guided play, solitary play and parallel play, fancy terms such as “agon”, “alea”, “mimicry” and “ilinx”, the list is long. Not all types pf play suit for classroom, some are better done at a sports field or in nearby nature – and vice versa: to introduce play and games in the classroom, you don’t necessarily need a big space or special equipment. Because play has so many forms, teachers can choose which elements of play suit best for their current situation in the classroom. Sometimes it’s a song or energizer, sometimes it’s imaginative play during a theater production, sometimes it’s something wild and physical at the playground. There are no limits to play.

L – Learning to learn skills develop through play

In guided play and adult led games, teachers can introduce pedagogically planned elements to the play. For example, teachers can pose problems that children need to solve so they can practice their creativity, logical thinking and problem solving skills. Or they can create tasks that involve cooperation to teach them teamwork skills. Teachers can also set up a play-based situation where children need to enquire, research and investigate new materials, techniques or information.

Creativity, collaboration, information literacy – These are not any skills – they are “learning-to-learn skills” that children need later in life as students and in working life to be able to success. All of them are also 21st century skills. What better way to start learning them than through play, child’s natural way of exploring the world?

A – Adults need to engage in play

Teachers have a key role in creating a learning environment that supports play. They need to make sure there are necessary materials, space and time for play. Sometimes the play needs guiding when children need new ideas or the play is somehow harmful to the children. To be able to guide and introduce pedagogical content to the play, teachers need to observe the play closely. The younger the children are, the deeper the engagement level of the teacher in play needs to be. Play situations are also a great moment to observe the child’s linguistic, social and motor skills.

Y – You can start doing it in your classroom!

If you are not yet using play in pedagogical way in your classroom, now is the time to start! You can start with baby steps: have a playful 15 minutes in the classroom at the end of each day or try a play afternoon when you finish the week. If you are precarious about what happens to classroom management and discipline when introducing play in the classroom, start with simple rule games and when children get used to them, allow them more creativity and freedom. Don’t worry about buying more play materials, games or toys – the most important material for creating a classroom that supports play based learning is your attitude as a teacher.


Are you interested in applying play based learning in your own teaching?
Please contact Laura, we would love to chat with you.

Contact us

Written by Huippu Education

News, insights and thoughts on education and pedagogy.