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Tionna Humphrey

Ms. Williams

English IV

27 April 2018


Play Based Environment in Early Childhood Education

Thesis: A play based environment creates an advantageous effect on a preschool child’s learning

than one where academia is the major component.


Children have freedom to explore and Communicate

A.Promotes Creativity and imagination

1.Developing problem solving skills


Imagination is a way to develop creativity

B.Improves social and emotional skills

1. They are able to develop relationships with others through play.

2. Children engage in learning through communication.


Children learn and develop language skills.

A. Supports pre-literacy skills

1. Play that involves music supports literacy skills.

2.Children observe what their peers say

B. Development of new vocabulary

1.Adults support language development by asking questions and engaging in


2.Introduction to unfamiliar words

III. Develops Memorization Skills


A. Listening to rhyme and repetition helps children memorize patterns.

1. Able to notice differences

2. Develops listening skills

B. Learning basic skills

1. Singing nursery rhymes, abc’s or calender songs.

2. Reciting songs, practicing rhyme, rhythm and repetition as the foundation of

basic literacy.

IV. NC Pre-K programs



Play Based Environment In Early Childhood Education

In an early childhood education setting, professionals teach children in a way to benefit

their learning. There are certain ways to implement learning for a child to retain information. The

two main philosophies of learning are play-based and academic-based learning. A play-based

environment creates an advantageous effect on a preschooler’s learning than one where academia

is the major component. Instead of sitting at a table with worksheets, hands-on activities are a

better way to invoke learning and improve development.

Academic-based learning is when teachers take charge and manage activities. Teachers

direct the curriculum, and the children have limited choice on how learning takes place. It is an

environment where the setting is routine-based, and children spend time practicing handwriting

or other worksheets. Also, children are expected to learn sounds, numbers, letters, colors, shapes

and see a stereotypical type classroom of posters, chairs and at least one or two centers. Sarah

Punkoney says, “Academic based-programs are more about product and outcome”(Punkoney).

Academic-based learning is great, but it does not have as an advantageous impact on

preschoolers as a play-based environment does.

Play-based learning is when children choose activities based on their own interests and

begin discoveries there. The majority of the school day is spent on discovering and developing

their skills in different centers or stations. These stations involve a kitchen area, reading corner,

sensory tables, block corners and many others. This author states, “Teachers may incorporate

academic skills through theme-based activities and may add theme based props to classroom

learning centers”(Punkoney). Play is the element of healthy development and influences the


areas of development. It also creates an opportunity for children to learn about themselves and


An advantage of a play-based environment is that children have freedom to explore and

communicate. In the aspect of exploration, children develop creativity and imagination. It is

noted that,“Using imagination, children are able to find solutions to a variety of problems they

encounter”(Aktova). In the midst of playing, children become creative and develop problem

solving skills from the obstacles they face. Before a child begins their hands on activities they

develop a plan on scenarios that will take place. In the scholastic article, it mentions that, “Play

planning encourages children to practice using language to discuss the play scenario, and to

make the roles, props, and actions clear to the other players”(Building Language and Literacy

Through Play). Therefore, children start to develop relationships with others through a play

based environment.

Dramatized play involves the category of using imagination and creativity, and children

use items found in centers to actively use their imagination. In the video article called, ‘Play is

children’s work’ mentions, “Dramatic play involves taking on a make believe role using objects

or prop to pretend and make by using a situation”(ChildcareResourcesMT). When using props,

children develop their uses of imagination in stages. Children are introduced to pretend play by

using realistic props. These props are used to help children remember the things they see in

everyday life. An example of this would be using a play kitchen to cook food like at home. As

they grow, their imaginative play expands and they use different props for more than one

function, such as using a pencil as a spoon. The scholastic article states, “Eventually, children

will be able to use unstructured materials for their props, make their own props, or even pretend


that they have a prop when in reality they do not”(Building language and Literacy Through

Play). Children start to improve in their social and emotional skills as they communicate.

Communication helps children to engage in learning and feeling connected to others.

Emotions have an impact on a social environment when feelings of empathy are shown. Children

learn about reacting to situations when it revolves around themselves or their peers. For example,

a child notices that a girl is sitting by herself, then that child decides to go over and play with her

so that she does not have to play alone. The child understood what the girl was feeling as she sat

alone and decided to keep her company. According to Sarah Punkoney, “Play is the context in

which children can most optimally learn, because it is the most efficient way for children to

process information”(Punkoney). Being able to associate with feelings makes it possible for the

children to recognize emotions. Also socializing helps children become more comfortable by

learning the styles and habits of others.

In addition to socializing, language skills begin to mature in the act of play. Through

communication, a child observes what their peers or teachers say and often mimic it. They also

begin to learn new vocabulary, use different tones and sounds in their play. One of the authors in

the ECE book says, “Children experiment with words and manipulate their use, meaning, and

grammar”(Gordon 271). As they interact with their teachers or peers, their language

development grows. Also teachers provide necessary help by asking children questions,

engaging in conversation and introducing unfamiliar words to enhance their language and


Memorization is another skill that is incorporated into play by the use of rhyme, rhythm

and repetition as the foundation of basic literacy. When children listen to rhymes, rhythms and


repetition it helps them to recognize patterns and notice sound differences. Some children have

difficulty with their memorization skills and through hands on activities, such as matching and

sorting with lego blocks, it stimulates the brain to grasp fun yet educational concepts. This is a

form of play that helps a child to memorize patterns in an enjoyable and physical way of

learning. “Intrinsic motivation is the inherent yearning for children to do something tangible

because they will learn something new from their experience”(Gordon 273). When children are

sorting the plastic bears by color or by size, they are using something tangible to tell the

difference between the color and shape.

The NC Pre-Kindergarten program understands this philosophy. Of the list of several

approved curricula, our county’s NC Pre-Kindergarten program chooses to use the Creative

Curriculum®. The Creative Curriculum® is based on play-based learning. It is a research based

curriculum which helps instructors to appropriately create a setting based on a child’s needs. The

Creative Curriculum® touring guide goes on to say that, “It features exploration and discovery as

a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity and lifelong critical

thinking skills ( 4). In this program, the instructors intentionally set up their classrooms to

support cognitive development, and growth for their children. An article that Patricia McDonald

writes mentions that, “During play teachers are researchers, observing children to decide how to

extend their learning (McDonald). They gently guide children to maintain their confidence as

they learn and discover. Then as a result of increased confidence, a child is able to express their

own ideas, and feel involved.

Lastly there is a joyous atmosphere when play is incorporated in learning. It is important

to know that when incorporating play in learning, it needs to be freely chosen with the


involvement of fun. Arina Aktova mentions specifically, “Learning through play creates a brain

that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning in later life’”(Aktova). When a

person is active, their brain is stimulated and their knowledge is expanded by making

discoveries. They are in control of their play situations because they are having fun.

Children are usually squirmy and very energetic with their little brains wanting to know

more. Sitting at a table or desk for majority of the day is not their idea of self discovery. Children

want to be independent, and discovering their skills through play is the best way to learn. The

Early Childhood Education book mentions a quote from Bruner, “According to Bruner, play can

be seen as the main opportunity for children to take risks without fear of failure”(Gordon 266).

Then, they can design and create without worry of being wrong.

Therefore, with these development and skills, children are able to learn and grow just as

well as working on worksheets. Although this type of learning is self-paced and hands on, which

means children discover things on their own. Communicating is also a benefactor because when

curiosity appears, children begin to ask questions. Through play, a child is wonders and tries to

come up with a solution throughout many scenarios. Other children are curious and work

together to find a solution. All of these assist in developing skills that they will carry with them

in the future.

Works Cited


Aktova, Arina. “What Are the Benefits of Play-Based Learning?” The Scots College,

“Building Language and Literacy Through Play.” Scholastic,

ChildCareResourcesMT. “Play Is Children's Work.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Apr. 2011,

Gordon, Kimberly A., et al. Early Childhood Education: Becoming a Professional. SAGE, 2014,

McDonald, Patricia. “NAEYC.” Observing, Planning, Guiding: How an Intentional Teacher

Meets Standards through Play | NAEYC,

Punkoney, Sarah, et al. “Let's End the Debate on Academics or Play in Preschool. Here's What

Research Tell Us

Stay At Home Educator, 19 Mar. 2018,

The-Creative Cirriculum-for Preschool. Teaching Strategies, 2016. Print