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What Play Based Learning Curriculums Need

Have you heard of play based learning?

Play based learning is, essentially, to learn while at play. Although the exact definition of play continues to be an area of debate in research, including what activities can be counted as play, play based learning is distinct from the broader concept of play. Learning is not necessary for an activity to be perceived as play but remains fundamental to the definition of play based learning.

Ok, wait...

Now, some parents - rightfully so - may be skeptical of a child care program that uses play based learning. Maybe your first thought is, "This sounds like just giving kids a bunch of LEGOs and calling it a day", and that's a fair question.

A picture is worth a thousand worlds, but this doesn't seem like play based learning.

As my Early Childhood Development Professor once said,

"Play based learning isn't just giving kids a bunch of LEGOs and calling it a day, it has to have an objective."

When a child care program has a play based learning curriculum, it's important to know what that means in detail. Some questions can be:

  • Is there any sample work?

  • What were the outcomes?

  • How did the kids learn?

Let's go with one example of how it can work:


Children can pretend they are at the market.

play based learning math market place
It doesn't have to be this fancy.

One child is the shopkeeper who has everything from plastic potatoes and cobs of corn to teddy bears and unicorns.

All other children are buyers, use building blocks (increments of 1, 2, and 4) to purchase items.

The shopkeeper keeps track of the cost of items, counting each increment of currency before a transaction is made. Kids can even return the faulty plastic potatoes if they find out they aren't up to quality.

To make it more advanced, children can negotiate their buy orders.

"I'll give you 4 blocks for one potato"

Billy says.

"One potato costs 5 blocks."

Sally responds.

"Okay, I will give you 10 blocks for two potatoes"

Billy concludes.

And just like that, the play based learning finds an objective where children discover the mathematics surrounding the world. We have a purpose in mind, which is the use of addition, engaging in social interactions, and correlating items with costs. There's even a bit of early algebra mixed in with P * 2 = 10.

Stay tuned for more play based learning examples! Thank you for reading.

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