Play is the natural way in which children learn. It constitutes a vital component of children’s lives, without which their potential for healthy mental and physical development is undermined. It provides the mechanism for children to recreate, explore, make sense of the world around them and is an important medium through which skills are developed and practised. It is essential for physical, emotional and spiritual growth, intellectual and educational development and the acquisition of social and behavioural skills. In play children learn through experience and their motivation and direction is intrinsic. Play is a process with many possible but no prescriptive outcomes.
Well-planned play is an underlying principle in the Early Years Foundation Curriculum.
Statement of Intent
- To provide open-ended play opportunities to give children the potential to develop communication, mathematical, scientific and creative, concepts and skills.
- To value play and its contribution to the personal, social and emotional well-being of children.
- To promote active play that will support physical development and healthy lifestyles
- To raise awareness of the importance of play throughout the school, home and local community, giving play value and status.
- To develop values/attitudes of trust, respect, co-operation and independence through play.
- To involve all staff, children and parents/carers in planning provision for play.
- To provide equal opportunities of access to play.
- To resource play provision relevant to children’s individual age/stage of development and to reflect the differing needs, interest and cultural backgrounds of individuals.
- To provide high quality play facilities aimed at stimulating the child’s enjoyment/imagination throughout the unit’s day.
- To provide safe, accessible play facilities.
- To support play through adult commitment and involvement.
- To observe play in order to have first-hand evidence of children’s learning.
- To value play and its contribution to the unit’s ethos.
- To understand that play is a vital part of the informal and the formal curriculum, affecting children’s learning and behaviour, both in the indoor and outdoor classroom.
Values and Principles
- Play should be an intrinsic part of the children’s learning and development.
- Play can challenge children and offer them the chance to work in depth.
- Through play, children should be offered opportunities to explore feelings and relationships, ideas and material, make connections, represent their ideas, create environments etc., be imaginative and innovative.
- Play can enable children to apply existing knowledge and to practise their skills.
- Planning the provision both inside and outside is often more effective when it is carried out in consultation with the children.
- As children get older there is a need to ensure opportunities for progression in play.
- Play provision should be well planned but flexible, ensuring enough space, time and resources/equipment are available to support learning.
- Play empowers children to make choices and gives them the chance to be directors rather than directed.
- In play the adult’s role is one of a sensitive facilitator who can support, intervene or extend.
- Play provision should recognise different children’s needs and their cultural and social background.
Planning for Play
Careful planning is essential to ensure that there are opportunities to cover the curriculum through play and to enable learning to take place. Planning should take account of equal opportunities and special educational needs.
Long term planning includes
- topics chosen to reflect opportunities for play and a broad and balanced curriculum across the year
- lists of relevant play activities linked to topics and development stages
Medium term planning
- elements of topics paced across the time allocated
- clearly identified adult initiated play opportunities which are linked to the above development matters
Short term planning
- grouping and differentiation
- flexibility to follow children’s play
- types of play covered to include the six areas of learning
- adult roles
The role of the adult is to structure the learning environment and to provide a stimulating curriculum, giving opportunities for quality play based activities. The adult needs to:
- provide both indoor and outdoor opportunities
- plan and resource a safe, secure and stimulating play environment
- support children’s learning through play activity
- extend and support spontaneous play
- extend and develop language and communication, including questioning
- provide opportunities to take risks
- give opportunities for children to play alone, alongside others
- observe, assess and identify the next step in the child’s learning
- communication and work with parents
- evaluate the quality and provision of the learning environment
- build on children’s existing knowledge and skills
- needs to inform planning and give knowledge about the individual children, their achievements and their learning needs
- gathers information about the understanding children currently have, what experiences children need to be offered next and their social and emotional needs, both as individuals and as members of the class
- is an integral part of the learning spiral and is part of the planning process
- needs to take place at the beginning, during and at the end of an activity cycle
- assessment ideally takes place over a variety of activities, including teacher initiated and child initiated play
- is ongoing
- sometimes needs to be planned for to allow specific objectives to be observed
- needs to take a variety of forms and may include observations made by many adults