It would be hard to overstate the importance of brilliant early years practitioners when using play to support children’s learning and development. Early years play is …
* carefully structured to ensure conceptual development in all areas of the curriculum;
* imaginatively resourced to ensure that learning opportunities are maximised (you should see our cupboard!);
* timed to perfection (this really matters with small children), so that there is group time, free time, busy time, quiet time and, of course, story time;
* focused on language and conceptual development through the use of talk and sustained shared thinking;
* guided and structured through the use of routines, timings and patterns;
* child initiated, adult initiated and adult directed as appropriate;
* focused on social and emotional development, and independent skills such as toileting, dressing and sharing;
* highly personalised, with the use of key workers, next steps, learning journeys and home visits (we use a ratio of at least one adult to five children);
* a way of identifying any special needs at an early point, and intervening as needed;
* often done outdoors, so that children learn about the natural world, use all their senses, build strength and find out how to calm themselves;
* intensely creative, with the use of provocations, pretending and masses of glitter;
* a thing of beauty, wonder, love and sensitivity.
I’ve got to get back to playing with my family now. But I just wanted to say that, thanks to some brilliant early years practitioners, this is what learning through play actually looks like, at our modest, local and resolutely child centred preschool.