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What is play-based learning?

Early learning

Children learn so much through play. It allows them to explore, discover, negotiate, take risks, create meaning and solve problems – all the important foundations for developing literacy, numeracy and social skills.

It is central to the Australian Government’s Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), and while it may sound simple and easy, play-based learning is a complex form of natural enquiry that requires an experienced educator who knows each child’s overall development, emerging strengths and interests.

Through play-based learning, skilled educators can introduce and reinforce concepts we want children to learn in a way that engages each child’s interests.

Play based learning capitalises on children’s natural sense of inquiry and discovery through hands-on exploration of the world around them. Educators embed elements of teaching and learning within the play experiences that children are interested in and naturally drawn to – and therefore more likely to stay engaged with. This is why the educator has to know each individual child so well, to know what they are interested in and how each child learns best.

Here’s an example: Educators may be intending to explore aspects of early numeracy and literacy with the children in their group. However this learning does not take place in an old fashioned “chalk and talk” type lesson. Rather the educators will embed aspects of numeracy and literacy within the play that children are currently exploring.

So some children in the room, who may be exploring gardening, may be encouraged to chart how their vegie patch has changed over the past month. While another group of children may be supported to write/draw a ‘menu’ for their pretend restaurant, while yet another child who is deeply interested in dinosaurs may be encouraged to discuss and document the similarities and differences between the various dinosaurs he has come across.

These early literacy skills of pre-writing, drawing and mathematical concepts of classifying and charting are explored through play in ways that are authentic to the child.

As an example, when parents give their child a puzzle to do, it’s an opportunity to interact and have fun together. But for an early childhood educator, it’s an opportunity to work with children to explore educational concepts such as pattern-matching, problem-solving, numerical and mathematical concepts such as part/whole and shape, along with language skills too. Plus it’s a great opportunity to help children develop self-confidence and self-esteem at the same time.

You see, play-based learning is purposeful and what we call ‘intentional’. Educators carefully and deliberately plan play based experiences to help children learn about educational concepts involved in literacy, numeracy, technology, social skills and more in a way that’s meaningful and enjoyable to them.

Lesley Jones PhD cand., M Ed.S., B Ed.E.C., Dip Ed.C. Goodstart State Manager – Queensland

Making children’s learning visible

We record and collect each child’s experiences, observations, ideas and creative expressions to help us build a rich and individual learning program.

Children are active learners and they learn naturally through exploration – by touching, moving, listening, seeing and experiencing. Our educator’s roles are to support and enrich your child’s learning by:

  • Providing resources and opportunities for children to explore.
  • Using materials, such as paint, clay, musical instruments and writing implements for children to express themselves.
  • Questioning and encouraging children to think creatively, investigate and solve problems.
  • Making learning ‘visible’ – that is, by using cameras, video recorders and written observations to document your child’s thoughts and ideas as they learn. We collect their experiences, comments, ideas, learning stories, photos, and observations. Our educators use this information to develop an individually tailored learning program for all children.
Parents are encouraged to contribute information about what their child is doing and learning outside Goodstart as this continuity between home and early learning can greatly enhance your child’s learning and development.


Every child is different. Each one has a special set of qualities and skills, and brings their own blend of experiences and perspectives to their learning. This is why, at Goodstart, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ program. Our educators create a unique learning program for your child, designed to bring out the best in their emerging competencies, interests and strengths.


The Goodstart family is a rich and vibrant blend of cultures, backgrounds and experiences, and when your family joins us, we want to get to know you. By building strong, meaningful relationships with all our families, we can individualise learning experiences to better suit your child’s culture, interests, needs, abilities, disabilities and learning style.

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