What is play based learning

We have all been hearing the term ‘play-based learning’ a lot these days. It gained popularity in the early 2000s, even though research goes back way further. Play-based learning offers many benefits for children learning through play.  The way children learn through play is quite fascinating. As you understand the concepts behind it and the WHY it is so important. 

Play-based learning is about supporting children to explore opportunities and learn in environments that are enriched with materials for their growth and development.  We can teach children to learn math, social skills, science, cognitive skills and so much more in play-based environments!  For example, snow allows great learning as we can measure it, build with it, watch it melt, freeze, and so much more.

We can all work together to support our children to learn through play. Not just about seasons changing, but with the natural materials and loose parts that are provided in our classrooms, outdoor environments, and at home! Interested in reading more about play-based learning in the upper grades, check out the blog post here.

How are we using it at CNCS

Our primary grade classes have been exploring the benefits of play-based learning while teaching worship using materials based on Waldorf materials and lessons from Godly Play. Godly play was created and founded by Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman in 2007. He has spent a lifetime of research and practice designing a program to help us teach children to listen to God and to make authentic and creative responses to God’s call in our lives.  It incorporates creativity and imaginative play to discover and learn about Christian formation and spiritual guidance. 

When we say a word, children may hear it but may not understand it.  When we say a word and use a model/prop to show that the word has a meaning, children can make connections and have a better understanding of the word.  The same approach is being used with using storytelling with play sets that the children can set up and use as the story is being told  For example, here the teacher is reading The Lord saves a good man and his family, Genesis 6 and 7, from The Word of the Lord Old Testament.   An illustrated Old Testament Bible, simplified for young children by Carol Buss with beautiful soft pictures by Dianna Synnestvedt published by GCED (General Church Education).  

What are play sets

The children choose people or animals from the playsets during worship lessons. Introducing play sets allows Children to choose pieces they would like to use, while the story is being shared. They are able to place them into the scene provided.  Using names for peg people become familiar people and names used during storytelling. This helps the children to have an understanding of the bible to help with their worship learning in later grades.

Play sets can be left out for students to interact with during discovery play, to help continue their learning. Children can use the play sets to prompt responses through writing, painting, sketching, playdough play, or dramatic retellings to name a few. Older students can use the play sets to create stop-motion animation or PowerPoint videos.

A play set set up

Think of it as laying a foundation for a house.  We must start with the base layer of support before we can grow and add on it. As the next layers are added, they add to the support and help to build a stronger foundation.  Children are learning through play-based learning the same way, so let’s continue to let them explore and build solid foundations!

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