Key Elements for Play


Learning through play

In the course of learning, children’s active participation is pivotal to the effectiveness of learning. The “child-centred” concept is a key element of the learning and teaching strategies in early childhood education. With respect to the need for different learning and teaching strategies, teachers should no longer play a dominant role in the learning activities, but engage in various roles such as that of facilitator, information provider, learning assessor, etc.

When organising learning activities, teachers should adopt a life-wide learning strategy (Note10), i.e., make use not only of resources available in the setting but also from the community to provide children with a rich environment for learning.

No matter which learning and teaching strategy is adopted, play is an indispensable and important tool for facilitating children’s learning. It helps children know their surroundings and experience the joy of co-operating and sharing with others. Through play, children can develop their physical, intellectual, social, creative and thinking abilities. Play is also considered to be the best activity for promoting children’s physical and mental development.

i. Toys

Toys have a direct bearing on the types of play and children’s interest in playing. For example, toy blocks can stimulate children to engage in construction play; dolls in the family corner can lead children to carry out imaginative play. When pre-primary institutions choose toys, they should cater for the needs of children’s physical and mental development. Below are some principles to be considered:

 The required skills must match the children’s abilities: if a game is too difficult, children will stop trying, as they get frustrated with not knowing how to play the game. If a game is too easy, they will not fi nd it challenging enough and become disengaged.


 The texture of materials (smooth, rough, hard, soft, etc.) should suit the requirements of different kinds of plays. Generally speaking, soft and smooth materials are more suitable for children.

 The number of toys should be appropriate. Children cannot handle too many toys at a time. They may easily get distracted with too many toys and this will result in a waste of resources and defeat the purpose.

However, if the number of toys is not adequate, children’s needs may not be satisfi ed.

 Toys should be arranged systematically and easily accessible to children in order to arouse their interest and motivation for learning. The orderly arrangement of toys can encourage children to form the habit of putting the toys back in order after playing.

 Toys must be safe. Small articles are dangerous, as children may put them into their mouths or noses; fragile items are easily broken and children may get hurt. Teachers should check all toys regularly and repair the damaged ones immediately to ensure safety.

ii. Playmates

Teachers may organise the children to play in large groups, small groups or on their own. Teachers may consider forming different groups by age. Children can learn to communicate and co-operate with peers; or teachers can arrange for children of different ages to be in a group, so that older children can help and thus learn to take care of the younger ones, while the younger ones can learn from the older ones and widen their vision for learning.

iii. Environment

 Indoor and outdoor environment: enclosed or open space can be used to organise different kinds of activities.

 A spacious area is suitable for play requiring vigorous movement, whereas a limited space is appropriate for quiet play with little movement.

iv. Time arrangement

 Time for play should be appropriately structured: different kinds of play require different time and effort from children. Activities such as building blocks, family corner or role-play require a longer time to achieve their purposes. Children should be given enough time to enjoy the fun of play and learn effectively.

 “Active” and “quiet” play should be well-balanced: teachers should

consider striking a good balance between “active” and “quiet” play. For example, they should organise “quiet” play such as story-telling to calm children down after an exhausting game.

Play and Children’s Development


Role of Teachers during Play


Play is an indispensable part of children’s growth, and children’s development affects their ability to play. Following the development of their thinking ability, gross and fine motor skills and social ability, children can take part in more complicated play of different kinds. For example, with the development of their social ability, children will proceed from being able to take part in “solitary play”

at the beginning to “parallel play”, “associative play” and “co-operative play”

subsequently; with the development of their cognitive ability, the types of play that children can join will also progress from “functional play” to “constructive play”, “make-believe play” and “games with rules” .

Suitable play not only enables children to express their emotions and gain pleasurable experience, but also promotes their learning and growth. Therefore, play and children’s development are interrelated. Teachers have to make good use of play as a major element for constructing the curriculum.

i. Provider: Teachers should arrange the place, time and materials necessary for the play.

ii. Observer: Teachers should observe children’s performance at play objectively and understand the process of children’s play.

iii. Participant: Teachers should encourage children to act freely and should also understand their feelings from the children’s point of view. If teachers fi nd that children do not take any initiative to participate in play, they should join in and offer support. In addition, teachers’ participation can arouse children’s interest in play and encourage them to participate more actively.

iv. Intervener: When providing materials and setting up the environment for play activities, teachers must consider the relationship between the level of difficulty of the activities and children’s current development and characteristics. To meet their individual needs, teachers may intervene in an indirect and interesting way, and fi nish the game without spoiling children’s confi dence and interest.

v. Inspirer: Play is fun by nature. The fundamental principle of play is to stimulate thinking and enable children to express themselves freely.

Teachers should seize every opportunity to encourage children’s creativity and imagination.

Learning Differences and Children’s

Development 4.3.1

Catering for

In document Guide to the Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum Pre-primary Curriculum (Page 51-54)