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Play-based learning

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Play-based learning provides opportunities for children to actively and imaginatively engage with people, objects and the environment. Symbolic representation is a critical aspect. When playing, children may be organising, constructing, manipulating, pretending, exploring, investigating, creating, interacting, imagining, negotiating and making sense of their worlds. It promotes the holistic development (physical, social, emotional, cognitive and creative) of a child and depending on how it is utilised, may also support a broad range of literacy and numeracy skills. The teacher's role in scaffolding play is pivotal.

If utilised effectively, possible characteristics may include: active, agentic, collaborative, creative, scaffolded.

Play-based learning unpacked

Teachers may:

  • construct opportunities for play within (not as opposed to, or as well as) the learning program/environment
  • make connections between play and the Australian Curriculum visible for all involved and clearly articulate this relationship
  • model, support, initiate and generate play to include the use of, for example, miniature worlds, socio-dramatic, puppet, media, block, sand, water
  • actively engage in and guide the play — before, during and after.

Children may:

  • engage in a learning environment that progressively withdraws scaffolding as mastery is increased
  • trial modelled metalanguage and behaviours within meaningful classroom contexts
  • move towards applying skills, strategies, concepts and rules independently
  • transfer new knowledge to broader teaching and learning contexts
  • identify when, and from whom, help can be sought.

Download the approaches of age-appropriate pedagogies in action: play-based learning (PDF, 189KB) (DOCX, 42KB) to further explore the approach.

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Last updated 29 April 2019