The fun way to build skills for life

Play-Based Learning

The fun way to build skills for life

Background: Why Play-Based Learning? 

The play-based learning movement, now commonly found in the teaching philosophies and practices of schools around the world, has been developed from:

  • an understanding of the processes involved in children learning the basic skills needed to support complex learning, and
  • an understanding of how students develop knowledge based on their own, always-present creativity and curiosity.


What does it look like?

Whether guided by a teacher or not, when children are immersed in their own creative play or adventures, they are engaged in play-based learning. Examples of this could include a child playing with toys while imagining a conversation, children working together to build a boat out of blocks or a house out of boxes, or friends building a fairy garden from things they find in nature. What’s key in each of these situations is that children are immersed and engaged in activities that are important to them, allowing them to commit to all the learning that occurs.

How is this learning? 

Through activities such as the ones listed above, children explore big ideas in mathematics and language, while also developing their social interaction skillsets. What’s more, as they interact, they continue to better understand themselves as thinkers and to develop their ability to sequence, order and plan. These higher order skills, needed for more complex tasks, are thus developed and mark important steps in their learning journeys.


What does play-based learning look like in schools? 

In the play-based learning ‘classroom’, wherever that happens to be, the teacher’s role is to make the learning visible to the child and to the community. It’s important to note here that play-based learning is not just play. On the contrary, educators MUST be accountable to learning needs and curriculum standards, and must document and collect data to ensure students are gaining the necessary academic skills and meeting established and expected outcomes. The child’s role, in contrast, is to be curious and industrious, to be a problem solver and be prepared to try new experiences. What a life!

In the play-based learning environment, teachers scaffold and support children in their play by making connections to content that builds knowledge. They ask questions to support children in solving problems and encourage them to recognize the process and the learning that has occurred. A young child engaged in building a boat out of blocks will be equally involved in reading a book all about boats to support the development of his ideas. In this way, they naturally become immersed in text, developing reading skills, building knowledge of boats historically and mechanically. With more scaffolding, the child could become engaged in drawing a labelled diagram of his boat and would now be writing and building vocabulary. Asking them to find the length of the boat using pencils as units of measure engages Mathematics. Asking them to explain their creation to the visiting adult in the room develops their ability to synthesize and summarize using oral expression. At this age, the rate of learning is staggering!


Knowledgeable teachers recognize what children of all ages need to learn from the curriculum and are able to identify the skills students need to develop in order to be successful learners. They also recognize the learning that is occurring through play and are able to assess and identify children’s milestones as they cover the curriculum. Rather than start with the curriculum and outcomes, good teachers start with the child.

ORIGINS recognizes that play is a form of inquiry and that people of all ages can use play to learn because it offers opportunities to ask questions, to create and most importantly, to practice skills and develop knowledge across subject areas. Students involved in play-based learning get to trial what they have learned and in doing so, get to authentically practice important skills in a real life context.


Play-based learning helps students to be independent learners, to be students who solve problems, self start and are committed to tasks. Join us in recognizing the importance of recognizing ‘play’ as a rich and meaningful learning engagement that authentically develops skills and knowledge – not only for small children but for people of all ages. After all, are we all not students?