The Role of Play in Early Childhood Learning

3 min
Jun 21, 2024

Imagine. You walk into a BrightPath classroom where a group of children are deeply engrossed in a world of their own making. Today, the dramatic play area has transformed into a bustling veterinary clinic. With stethoscopes around their necks and toy syringes in hand, the young vets examine their stuffed animal patients, their faces alight with curiosity and concentration. This is the essence of the BeeCurious Curriculum framework, where play isn't just encouraged, it's the heart and soul of learning.

A Curriculum Built on Play

Play-based learning is a core element of our BeeCurious Curriculum, offering children the freedom to choose their activities and engage deeply with their interests. The core principles include:

  • Child-Led Play: Children choose what they want to play and engage with, fostering autonomy and intrinsic motivation.
  • Accessible Learning Environment: All elements of the learning environment are open and accessible, ensuring inclusivity and exploration.
  • Sustained Engagement: Extended periods are allotted for play, allowing children to immerse themselves in activities without interruption.
  • Dynamic Environment: The environment changes periodically, introducing new discoveries and learning opportunities through areas like dramatic play, sensory tables, and building blocks.
  • Open-Ended Invitations: Activities are set up as invitations that provoke children to explore multiple pathways, fostering creativity and curiosity.

Play Scenarios with Purpose

Every play scenario in the BeeCurious Curriculum is thoughtfully designed to foster development across multiple domains. Take the Animal Study, for instance. During this thematic exploration, the dramatic area metamorphoses into veterinary clinics, aquariums, and entomologist labs. The children are not just playing, they're developing vital social skills, learning to take turns, build storylines, solve problems, and share the limelight.

“Through role play, children learn to interact, communicate, and collaborate,” explains Sharon Pauwels, Education and Quality Manager at BrightPath. “They’re not just pretending; they’re acquiring skills that form the foundation of their cognitive and social development.”

Fostering Inquiry and Creativity

Play-based activities are pivotal in fostering inquiry and creativity. Educators build strong relationships with children, observing and recognizing meaningful learning moments. These observations are documented and used to inform future programming, ensuring personalized and relevant learning experiences.

  • Observation and Documentation: Educators consistently observe children, noting when they are engaged in meaningful play. These moments are recorded and used to tailor future activities.
  • Developmental Snapshots: Weekly developmental snapshots are created and shared with families, providing a comprehensive developmental profile by the end of the year.
  • Assessment: Educators complete biannual assessments of each child's developmental skills using Pearson Assessment profiles.

Measuring Success Through Play

The effectiveness of play-based learning is measured through a combination of developmental assessments and ongoing observations. Educators look for positive outcomes like confidence, independence, and creativity with the goal to support children in becoming capable, enthusiastic learners.

One particularly enchanting success story involves the “Nature Potions” activity. Set up with springtime blossoms, natural loose parts, coloured water, and tools like measuring cups and magnifying glasses, this invitation to create captured the children's imaginations.

“They learned about measurements, colours, and the names of flowers,” Sharon recalls. “But more than that, they built social connections, working together to mix their potions.”

The activity evolved into an outdoor bakery, where mud cookies and cakes were “sold” to peers using stones as coins. This playful scenario nurtured math concepts and reinforced social skills, all while the children had a blast.

The Educators’ Role

Educators play a crucial role in facilitating play-based learning. They use guided questions to stimulate critical thinking, provide new tools to support engagement, and tailor interactions based on each child's learning style, personality, and age.

For younger kids, the focus is on skill development, while older children engage in more inquiry-driven activities. “We set up invitations for all age groups, ensuring that each child can participate in ways that are developmentally appropriate,” Sharon explains.

The educators’ enthusiasm and adaptability are key to deepening learning and fostering exploration.

Listening to the Children

Feedback from children is integral to the BeeCurious curriculum. Educators document and use meaningful moments to inform and adapt future activities. This feedback loop ensures that our curriculum remains responsive and personalized.

Overcoming Challenges

Implementing play-based learning can be challenging, particularly in recognizing and capturing meaningful moments amidst a busy schedule. BrightPath addresses this through comprehensive training for educators, ensuring they actively watch for key moments and document them for future learning activities. Each child has at least one meaningful moment captured per study.

Innovating and Expanding Play-Based Learning

As BrightPath looks to the future, there are exciting plans to expand and innovate their play-based practices. One new initiation involves introducing diversity through sign language and exploring the creative processes of artists from various backgrounds.

“We want to give children the tools to express themselves in many different ways,” Sharon says. “By exploring diverse forms of creativity, we aim to broaden their horizons and deepen their learning experiences.”


At BrightPath, play is not just an activity, it's a philosophy. Through thoughtful, child-led play, our BeeCurious Curriculum is shaping the future of early childhood education, one joyful, curious child at a time.

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