5 Important Assumptions Of Play-Based Learning

Play is the business of children. And it should be for all ages! Natural curiosity is the most powerful tool for learning. That’s where we began today as we brought our staff back from summer vacation. “Play” is one of two important initiatives this year, so we began our inquiry by considering this quote by Friedrich Froebel:

“A child that plays thoroughly, with self-active determination, perseveringly until physical fatigue forbids, will surely be a thorough, determined [person], capable of self-sacrifice for the promotion of the welfare of himself and others.”

At Soundview, our mission is to develop knowledge, compassion and ethics in future global citizens and leaders. Play is an important part of our pedagogy because students' interests, background knowledge, and creativity emerge. To play is to try out new ideas, whether or not they work.

Our goal today was simply to have fun together and play as adults.

We used the following 5 guiding assumptions to structure our activity:

  1. Every child and adult has a developmental need to experience creativity and self-expression.

  2. Play with concrete, open-ended materials offers a powerful tool for creativity and self-expression.

  3. Children and adults who are skilled at play develop feelings of competence, power, and self-efficacy.

  4. Play can build capacities such as problem-solving, persistence, and collaboration.

We started by choosing from an array of open-ended materials. We used these materials for 20 minutes of solo, silent play. After the solo session, we spent a few minutes cleaning up, capturing some reflections, and talking about connections to teaching and learning.

Just one "tray" of open-ended materials to play with.

Just one "tray" of open-ended materials to play with.

Natural materials - stack 'em and knock 'em down. 

Natural materials - stack 'em and knock 'em down. 

Finding patterns and exercising fine motor skills. 

Finding patterns and exercising fine motor skills. 

Stackables.

Stackables.

The solo session was followed by a collaborative play session and similar clean, reflect, discuss.

Sharing and trading.

Sharing and trading.

Building a beach scene together.

Building a beach scene together.

Here are some of our collective observations about our play session:

  • The atmosphere was relaxed; the creativity was palpable.
  • Some of us had clear visions for our creations.
  • We tended to sort and organize.
  • Solo and group play are very different experiences, exercising different learning styles and strategies.
  • People approached materials differently; some used all, others used a single material.
  • We noticed hidden skills in others.
  • Our inclinations and personalities came out in our choices.

What a great question to ask as parents and educators: how can we make more time for purposefully open-ended play?