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The Power of Play in ECEC

Play is an important aspect of early childhood development, and it has been proven to have a positive impact on children’s learning and overall development. In ECEC settings, play-based learning is a common approach that is used to support child development. 

Providers can facilitate play-based learning by creating a rich and varied learning environment that provides opportunities for exploration and discovery. This may include a variety of materials and resources, as well as opportunities for outdoor play and physical activity. By prioritizing play-based learning in ECEC settings, providers can help children to develop the skills and abilities they need to succeed in school and in life.

This article will explore several ways in which play-based learning supports child development.

Social and Emotional Development

Play allows children to explore their emotions and develop social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperation. Through play, children learn how to express themselves and interact with others, which lays the foundation for healthy social and emotional development.

Cognitive Development

Play-based learning can help to develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity. When children engage in play, they are using their imaginations and exploring their environment in a unique way that helps them make sense of the world around them. This can greatly stimulate children’s creativity and curiosity through open-ended play and exploration.


Physical and Language Development

Play-based learning provides opportunities for children to develop their language and communication skills, such as listening, speaking, and understanding. Through play, children expand their vocabulary and practice using language in a meaningful way. 

Play-based learning can also support physical development, as children engage in gross motor and fine motor activities that help develop their strength, hand-eye coordination, and body awareness which are essential for overall health and well-being.



Self-regulation refers to a child’s ability to manage their emotions, behaviour, and attention in response to their environment. Play-based learning can help children develop self-regulation skills like controlling their emotions and impulses. Through play, children learn how to manage their behaviour and make decisions that are appropriate for the situation.

For example, if children are building a tower together, they may need to manage their emotions if the tower falls and then work together to find a solution. Play helps children to learn to take turns, share, and compromise during a game or practice managing their frustration when things don’t go their way. 

By incorporating play-based learning into ECEC settings, educators can help to support child development in a holistic way. Play-based learning allows children to learn in a way that is meaningful and engaging, and it provides a foundation for future learning and development.

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