The Nature of Play
The Nature of Play at Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School.
A Position Statement.
The objective of this statement is to provide staff with a guide to assist them in making judgements about the role of play in their pedagogy and practice, offering guidelines and justifications for the provision and enhancement of quality play opportunities at Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School for children in early childhood education.
All Children Have the Right to Play
All children have a fundamental right to play, the freedom to make choices, to extend and challenge themselves in a safe and caring environment. The right to play is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Play provides opportunities for children to learn, as they discover, create, improvise and imagine. Play is a valued process for children’s learning, thinking, imagination story making and communication. Play provides children with the opportunities to develop a sense of agency and demonstrates their competence to be leaders in their own learning. Play can provide children with a sense of belonging and being and supports the development of children’s individual and social identity” (Early Years Learning Framework, 2010, P30)
All children have access to an inclusive education that supports their individual needs and purposefully develops the whole child. Every child is engaged in a safe, creative and caring environment which encourages learning and development through wonder, exploration and curiosity.
The staff at Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School promote and facilitate high quality teaching through the balance of explicit teaching and child directed activities. A balanced, evidence-based approach of intentional guided and child centred play is planned to ensure children have opportunities to grow.
Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School values play as an integral part of a child’s development and is a key feature in early childhood education. Play is essential for our children’s health, physical and emotional growth and helps children make sense of their world. Engagement in play allows the freedom for children to feel confident and competent as learners and helps develop a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self. Shernoff et al. defines engagement as concentration, interest and enjoyment. Intense concentration allows for deep task absorption and sustained attention. Interest is sparked by curiosity and enjoyment is described as creative accomplishment and satisfaction. Shernoff et al. (2003) found that children increase their engagement when their own skills meet the task, when they received relevant instruction and when they had control within the learning environment. Play embodies all these principles.
The Science Behind Play: Executive Function
Executive function is the process in how we learn. Play helps grow cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control (impulsive actions), and working memory.
Play allows for:
- Sustained attention
- The ability to focus on one task and ignore the outside world
- Improved self-regulation and self-control
- Better problem solving
- Mental flexibility
Ability to Shift Gears
With an increase in executive functioning, children are able to switch gears without having a tantrum. They go from playing with materials to cleaning up and getting ready to go somewhere else.
- The more children play, the more development happens in their prefrontal cortex.
- Play builds children’s executive functioning
- When a child plays where their interests are – it builds ATTENTION SPAN, SUSTAINED FOCUS and JOY! This builds children’s emotional regulation by giving children time and space doing what matters to them (Yogman et al., 2018)
Stages of Play
These stages of play are integral for a child’s overall development, particularly in terms of social skills, however, it is important to note that every child will move through these stages at their own stage of development.
Unoccupied– The random movements that infants make with no clear purpose is the beginning of play
Solitary– When children start to play on their own. Children do not seem to notice other children sitting or playing nearby during this type of play.
Onlooker– When children watch others play. The child who is looking may ask questions but there is no effort to join in the play.
Parallel– When children begin to play side-by-side with other children without any attention to each other.
Associative– When children start asking questions of each other. They have similar goals but there are no set rules.
Social– When children begin to share ideas and toys, and follow established rules and guidelines.
(Adapted from Mildred Parten’s Stages of Play Theory)
Eight Ways of Learning
8 Ways to start the process…
when you create your play based learning environment!
Tell a Story. Make a Plan. Think and Do. Draw It. Take It Outside. Try a New Way. Watch First, Then Do. Share It With Others
Types of Play
The term “play” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and the goal of this position statement is not to establish a uniform definition for the term or to develop a hierarchy of different forms of play and learning models. The purpose of this position statement is to describe how play is defined in practise, as well as the various circumstances in which it occurs at Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School.
Imaginative and socio-dramatic
Children use a range of materials in creating, and representing their own ideas and understandings through imaginative play. In acting out, imagining and representing through play, their thinking and oral language skills are enhanced. This is one of the major ways in which children construct, make sense of and understand their world.
Constructive and investigative
Children require hands-on, concrete materials, with which they can construct, design, and create from their imaginations.
Children explore, investigate and discover the properties of objects such as: water, magnets, sand, and magnifying glasses.
Sensory play is an imperative part of children’s learning and assists children with their emotions, helping them to self-regulate, be calm, in a safe environment. It involves experiences that use the senses of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste for example: water, sand, clay, scented play dough, mirrors.
Physical play includes interacting and playing with others and involves elements of risk taking and fine and gross motor skill development, for example: running, jumping, climbing, creative construction, colouring and drawing (Walker, K., 2011, P18).
Loose parts play involves the use of materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials and can be synthetic or natural (Nicholson, S., 1971).
Nature play is child-led in the outdoors. It enriches childhood with movement, with imagination, with friendship, and with all the sensory wonder that nature brings. It is a joyful part of a full and healthy childhood and it supports every aspect of children’s development including their physical and mental health, social and emotional development, the building of resilience and creativity, and their connection to nature (Nature Play, WA).
The importance of outdoor learning.
At Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School we promote children’s interactions with the environment by providing a variety of resources and spaces to entice them to play, investigate, discover and appreciate. The children are typically granted greater freedom outdoors with appropriate provocations put in place. Outdoor learning environments are valuable to children’s holistic development. As a result, the emergence of a strong sense of agency, opportunities for meaningful decision-making and child-directed investigations with very high levels of co-operation and engagement may be observed.
- Enhance fine and gross motor skill development
- Enhance exploration of the natural world
- Enhance a sense of well being
- Promote problem solving
- Support creative expression (Catron & Allen, 2008, p120)
Educators thoughtfully plan outdoor play provocations to meet the developmental needs of the children.
Children are natural risk takers and they learn to manage, control, and even overcome their fears by taking risks. Not only does taking risks help children overcome their fears, build confidence and resilience, but doing so also helps children develop strong physical skills that support body awareness. Taking risks allows children to overcome physical challenges and strengthens their senses at the same time (Hanscom, A., 2016, P124 – 132). All risky play provocations will be in assessed in accordance with National Quality Standards.
- Planner – Prepare the environment for children
- Facilitator – observe, listen, and interact with the children during play
- Model – Show the children how to play with their friends and the kinds of words they can use when conflicts come along during play
- Observer – Look and see which skills students have grasped during play and which skills need extra work
- Supporter – Make sure you are there for the children, so they can feel a sense of security as they enjoy playing
- Scaffolder – help students make sense of the world they are discovering through play
- Questioner – ask children open-ended questions to expand their knowledge
- Catron, C. E. & Allen, J (2008) Early Childhood Curriculum: A Creative Play Model. (4th edition)
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. http://k10outline.scsa.wa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/4629/EYLF_complete_doc.pdf
- Eight Ways Accessed from https://www.8ways.online 13/12/21
- Hanscom, A., (2016). Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children. New Harbinger Publications
- Nicholson, S. (2009). The Theory of Loose Parts, An important principle for design methodology. Studies In Design Education Craft & Technology, 4(2). Retrieved from https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/SDEC/article/view/1204
- Nature Play WA. https://www.natureplaywa.org.au/ Accessed 14/12/21
- Parten, M. B. (1932). Social participation among pre-school children. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27(3), 243–269. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0074524
- Pyle, A., & Danniels, E. (2017). A continuum of play-based learning: the role of the teacher in play-based pedagogy and the fear of hijacking play. Early Education and Development, 28(3), 274–289. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2016.1220771
- Walker, K. (2011). Play matters: investigative learning for preschool to grade 2 (2nd ed.). ACER Press.
- Michael Yogman, Andrew Garner, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH and COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA
Paediatrics September 2018, 142 (3) e20182058; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-2058
(Walker, K., 2011 p6)
By looking at different dimensions of play along a continuum and seeing how different dimensions interlock, it is possible to provide a balance to the different areas.
Children initiated and direct their own play. Educators observe and facilitate the environment.
Children ask questions and explore ideas. Educators offer resources and nudge children to go deeper.
Educator’s co-design play with children and may join in play.
Educators set up experiences that children explore to meet specific learning objectives.
Children follow the rules of prescribed learning activities designed by educators to promote specific skills.
|Running, jumping, make-believe, drawing, building with materials, reading
|Making instruments with elastic bands, investigating how worms move and simple machines work
|Playing restaurants or grocery store with pretend money
|Rehearsing and performing a scripted play, doing a scavenger hunt, baking cookies with a large illustrated recipe poster
|Matching and number line games, word bingo, rhyming word games, Simon says, games using dice
(Adapted from Pyle & Danniels, 2017)
Educator’s role during play
Planner – Prepare the environment
Facilitator – Observe, listen, and interact with the children during play
Model – Show students how to play with friends and the kind words they can use when conflicts come along during play
Observer – Look and see which skills students have grasped during play. Look and see which skills need extra work
Supporter – Make sure you are there for the children, so they can feel a sense of security as they enjoy playing
Providing Scaffolding – Help students make sense of the world they are discovering through play
Questioner – Ask students open-ended questions to expand their knowledge
Open ended questions to ask during play……
- How does it work?
- I wonder if ……?
- What do you think is happening?
- What do you think might happen?
- Tell me about your……?
- How can we ……?
- What would happen if……?
- Why does it……?
- Is there another way to do this?
- Tell me what it looks like?
- What else can you do with ……?
- How do you do that?
- What should we do next?
- How did you ……?
- What do you suppose ……?
- What can you hear?
- Tell me what it sounds like?
- Can you think of a different way?
- Is there another way to do this?
- How did that happen?
- What would you do?
- Tell me about ……?
- What do you think about ……?
- What can you see?
- What can you feel?
- What might happen next?