The New Zealand Curriculum vision is to support young people to become creative, energetic and enterprising; confident, connected, actively involved and life-long learners. These key skills have been identified as features of adults successful and thriving within the modern workplace. Ongoing research identifies the best way children can develop these skills and sustain them into adulthood is through play.
Learning through Play provides opportunities for children to creatively and confidently explore their own ideas. Through play children are self-motivated to learn about the world around them. With skilful social and emotional coaching, play provides children the opportunity to manage and resolve conflict, an important life skill. Learning through Play allows children the freedom to direct their own learning. Play allows children to access all areas of the curriculum throughout the whole day rather than one area at one specific time which has usually been set by the teacher. Learning through Play is a tool for children to experience rich learning opportunities that are meaningful and relevant to their interests.
Learning through Play is not ‘free play’, or ‘loose play’. The role of the teacher is crucial in enabling children to develop their knowledge and skill sets and is done through the use of descriptive commentary and coaching techniques. Research has identified that when children are supported in their play by a skilled adult, coaching them, guiding them and gifting them key knowledge and concepts, they make positive progress in all aspects of their learning. The teacher, in a play-based classroom, is an active participant, working alongside the children to support them in their learning. This is done through direct acts of teaching, such as literacy, and mathematics, as well as guiding children to solve their own problems, create their own creations and to be confident to explore their ideas within their play.
Learning through Play is a balanced approach to teaching and learning, where students have both the freedom to explore their ideas and interests, all the while engaging with the teacher for the direct teaching of literacy, mathematics and other key skill areas as required.