Early Education Reform Group EERG

Using play to create a Child-Centered Curriculum in the early years of school.

The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core. David Sobel

In the field of Early Childhood Education and Care, "Play" has a long history of both celebrations and debate. There are numerous versions of what constitutes "proper" play. Factors such as history, timing, place, cultures and social agendas can all shape the profile and importance of play in quality early childhood programs. Part of the work of the EERG group is to advocate for play in children's lives, and do this in a way that draws on the power and influence that can come as a result of a united voice for young children and play. Rather than let our disagreements splinter us and stop us form growing understandings, instead we ask that advocates and activists for children and play make a place that can accommodate all the possibilities for play, its purpose, its place, its form, its value. We can achieve more when we harness our shared knowledges, wisdom, enthusiasms, and determinations to advocate for young children and play. Throughout this site, you will find various versions and interpretations of play. To begin with, we have a small number of excerpts below. As we add to these, we will be building a rich and robust source of knowledges and evidence about the value and importance of play in young children's lives. 

"… the definition of play is a broad one, covering a wide category of social games, pretending games, games involving playing with objects, and indoor and outdoor play (Pellegrini, 2005; Wood & Attfield, 2005). Play is generally comprehended as an important and valuable activity, and mature, high-level play is regarded as both fun and developmentally valuable (Bodrova & Leong, 2003a; 2003b). However, play can also appear as an unimportant or even harmful practice (Johnson, Christie & Wardle, 2005; Scarlett, Naudeau, Salonius-Pasternak & Ponte, 2005; Sutton-Smith, 2001), if teachers lack the necessary pedagogical awareness and expertise. Thus, a more comprehensive understanding of the quality of play should be developed in order for teachers to avoid disguising poorly planned activities as games and play (Bergen, 2009; Hujala,Helenius & Hyvönen, 2010; Scarlett et al., 2005) or promoting play that is harmful.

In previous studies, play within learning contexts has been defined in various ways. King (1982; 1986) distinguishes instrumental play, real play, and illicit play. Instrumental play is mainly a teacher-led activity having academic goals. Real play refers to children-directed, voluntary activities that may take place (e.g., play during recess). Illicit play includes verbal and physical activities such as joking and fooling around. While children enjoy all three types of play teachers generally do not appreciate illicit play (King, 1982; 1986).

Morgan and Kennewell (2006) characterize play in terms of four distinct features. First, play is child-led and voluntary, even though adults can design settings to encourage children to play. Secondly, the process of playing is more important than the product, and the process is social by its nature. The third feature regards the low risk in play: learners at play are free to observe, investigate, and enjoy small details of their environment without being afraid of failures. The final feature indicates play as having the potential to contribute both procedural and conceptual knowledge (Morgan & Kennewell, 2006).

Moyles (1989) divides play types that are used in schools on the grounds of physicality, sociality/emotionality, and cognitivity. Other researchers define and name play in accordance with certain types of play activity, such as constructive play (e.g., Forman, 2006) and rough and tumble play (Pellegrini, 2006). In pondering learning through play, Kieff and Casberque (2000) define a context for meaningful learning in terms of the following features: play is focused on process; it is intrinsically motivated; it does not necessarily require literal interpretation; it allows for experimentation with rules; and it promotes mental activity.

Frame play as a type of role play is introduced by Broström (1996) whose definition of play is comprised of the idea of a common psychological frame. Children and educators together decide the general theme for the play—that is, they formulate the dimensions for content, figure a plot, and also plan play settings. In addition, rules and roles with characterizations are discussed. Process-like play, as well as children’s initiatives and activities, are emphasized (Broström, 1996)." 

Facts About the Importance of Play | Anastasia Kalokyri 

Play in schools in Finland


Current Documents & Links  

We shall provide links to useful websites and articles about the ongoing importance of child-centred, play-based and developmentally appropriate education. Books on these topics will also be detailed here. If you would like to suggest any material to be included here, please contact us.

  • Brooker, L., Blaise, M. & Edwards, S. (2014). SAGE Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood (1st Edition). Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications.
  • Grieshaber, S. & McArdle, F. (2010). The Trouble with Play. New York: Open University Press.
  • A World Without Play - Literature review on the effects of a lack of play on children's lives - Jan 2012 - by Josie Gleave & Issy Cole-Hamilton
  • Too Much Too Soon - The members and supporters of the Save Childhood Movement's 'Too Much Too Soon' Campaign believe that children in England are starting formal learning ...
  • Stop Stealing Childhood - Stop Stealing Childhood in the. Name of Education: A plea to ask WHY? Adapted from a submission originally made on 11 October 2013...
  • Play is more than just fun - A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.


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