Our thinking about play has been influenced over the years by the work of many educationalists, psychologists, and practitioners including Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, Bruce and many more. From this thinking have emerged a set of common principles which inform early years learning and teaching.
Through play, children learn to express themselves, learn and practice new vocabulary and to explore feelings and emotions in themselves and in others. They learn to exercise choice and develop decision making skills and they learn to co-operate with others. Children imitate people around them by recreating scenes from everyday life and acting out familiar roles and from this, imagination develops.
Lanuage development runs through all types of play activities. Talking and listening skills are developed and children learn new vocabulary and sentence structures.
Children learn about the world through their senses and therefore play with natural materials such as clay, sand, water etc. offer rich learning opportunities. First responses to these materials are often sensuous responses. Children swirl, pat, roll, knead, smell, stroke sift etc. They take pleasure in the simple tactile experiences. Play also encourages investigation. Children are encouraged to find out how things work, why things are and where things come from. Through play we can explore our world beginning with our family and extending to the whole world and further afield.
The outdoor environment provides young children with one of the best possible environments in which to learn. Well planned and well resourced outdoor play experiences allow for progression in a child's thinking and understanding.
"the best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky"
Margaret McMillan, 1925