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What is a 'play-based' preschool & how is it possible my child can learn what they need to if they just "play all day"?

This is our favorite question.


Play-based learning is an approach to education that recognizes the natural inclination of young children to learn through play (or as we call it, 'practice'). It emphasizes the importance of child-led, hands-on experiences, and fosters the development of skills and knowledge in a holistic and meaningful way. Play-based learning maintains the intent of helping each child progress through their developmental milestones, it's just- our 'how' is different.


Unlike rote memorization or compulsory trends often seen in traditional education systems, play-based learning offers a more engaging and relative method for children to meet their developmental goals in early childhood.

Play-based learning allows children to explore their interests, make choices, and take an active role in their own learning. There is no adult speeches given in circle-time, but there is materials provided to prompt children to extend play interests and schemas as they arise organically.


Through play, children engage in imaginative and open-ended activities that promote problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and social interaction. They develop essential cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and language skills that are foundational to their overall development. Skills they might not progress in a program that prioritizes compliance and rewards children for "following-the-rules".

Rather than focusing on memorizing facts, jumping between weekly inorganic themes that adults think are "cute", and following rigid academic structures, play-based learning nurtures children's innate curiosity, autonomy, and intrinsic motivation. It provides opportunities for hands-on experimentation, exploration, and discovery, allowing children to make connections and understand concepts in a meaningful context. This is a teaching approach that considers time and space for the child to "practice" their developmental goals vs. spoon feeding them facts about 'apples' just because it's September. 


Play-based learning also encourages a positive attitude towards learning, as children are actively involved and have agency over their educational experiences. It fosters a passion for learning, as children engage in activities that are personally relevant and interesting to them. Think about it, discovering a lesson for yourself as an adult is always more impactful than being told about this lesson from someone else, huh? 


By embracing play-based learning, children can meet their developmental goals in a more natural and child-centric way. It promotes a well-rounded development that goes beyond academics, ensuring that children develop a strong foundation of skills and knowledge while maintaining their love for learning. Ultimately, play-based learning offers a child-centered and developmentally appropriate approach that prepares children for a lifetime of learning and success... they will learn about the weather, we promise!


What can I look for in a play based classroom to serve as evidence of the effectiveness of this approach?

  1. Child engagement: Notice if the children are actively engaged in their activities, showing enthusiasm and curiosity as they explore and learn through play.
  2. Self-directed learning: Look for children taking the initiative in their learning, making choices, and setting their own goals within the play environment.
  3. Problem-solving skills: Observe how children approach challenges and solve problems independently or collaboratively with their peers.
  4. Creativity and imagination: Notice if children are using their imaginations, creating and inventing during their play experiences, demonstrating originality and creative thinking.
  5. Social interaction: Observe how children interact with one another, building relationships, practicing social skills, and engaging in cooperative play.
  6. Communication skills: Listen for children expressing themselves verbally and non-verbally, using language to convey ideas, negotiate, and solve conflicts.
  7. Emotional development: Notice how children express and regulate their emotions within the play environment, showing empathy and understanding towards others.
  8. Persistence and resilience: Observe if children demonstrate persistence and resilience when faced with challenges or setbacks during their play, showing determination and a willingness to try again.
  9. Sense of agency: Notice if children have a sense of ownership and control over their learning, making decisions and taking responsibility for their actions.
  10. Joy and enjoyment: Observe if children display a sense of joy, happiness, and fulfillment in their play, indicating that they are finding pleasure and satisfaction in their learning experiences.
These observations provide evidence that children are actively and meaningfully engaged in their learning, developing a wide range of skills and competencies through play. They demonstrate the positive impact of a play-based approach in fostering holistic development, promoting independence, and nurturing a love for learning.

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