The evolving theory of play as pedagogy


Play as Pedagogy

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The evolving theory of play as pedagogy involved asking questions and making suggestions during play to enhance learning. The questions were not randomly asked but were a result of observation of the space, and on figuring out what the context was, the children were able to join in. The step that followed was having a simple conversation with the child as it resulted in acquainting each other to one another as is the standard way of interacting with your friends daily. The use of signs enhanced the conversation as ideas could be easily expressed, improving the understanding of what was being communicated. Further communication with others enhances ones communication skills and can speak to people in a group and can not creatively express with other means. In the Te whariki curriculum, the curriculum begins with planning through inquiry. During this time, the child is asked several questions that provide a starting point in which the teacher can formulate the play that will best suit the child. In the New Zealand curriculum, due to the several ranges of communities, inquires are recommended before and during play, and the information obtained is used as a basis of action, Lee, (2013).


Learning area is the subject from which knowledge and skills are imparted. They are groupings subjects that are discrete in terms of tradition and are also related. Learning stories integrate the dispositions of learning into a story framework with the inclusion of an analysis of the content that has been understood, according to Nuttall (2003). Learning stories can be applied during play in that the teacher formulates stories about the culture or past leaders in the specific culture that the child comes from. This gives the child a background of the society, where it began, and the circumstances that led to the position they are in at the moment. As a result, the child gets to clearly understand their origin and why things are the way they are in society. This, therefore, allows the teacher to identify how his or her student is progressing. In addition to that, the teacher can invite others who can contribute to the students perspective. For example, in social studies, the teacher can educate the children on how New Zealand gained independence by beginning with Once upon a time. This will capture the children’s attention and facilitate learning. As a result, the students will learn about freedom in a much playful way.

These stories enable the parents to identify the lessons and subjects their children have been learning in school. As a result, when the parents place these topics, they can facilitate home-school partnership since they are directly involved in contributing to these learning stories as writers. They are usually about as short as a paragraph or as long as one page or longer. They focus on an incident or episode or maybe a snapshot of the child’s activities over a specified amount of time. It is only named a learning story when an adult includes his or her interpretation of what the child understands and their dispositions towards learning aspects such as curiosity, courage, and perseverance. As determined by Hedges et al. (2018), it is formulated by this adult to highlight to the young one what they can do and are currently doing instead of the things the child cannot do.

The sociocultural theory, which Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner initially formulated, researches young children based on their cultural history and cognitivism. Recently, this theory has been advanced further and has concluded that learning is the key to achieving development. In addition to this, it has been determined that learning occurs due to the relationship the child has with places, people, and things in their environment and that it is also achieved through participation in the activities that the society and culture that the child comes from. This, therefore, means that the environment in which a child grows up determines the aspects that a child learns in, even in the schools they go to. The childs learning is also affected by three ideas. The first is that genetic, environmental, and developmental factors work in association to promote or derail a child’s learning. Second, social life also determines the thinking and the language that the child uses that the child is exposed to. Finally, the behavior, social actions, and the individual that the child grows up to be are majorly influenced by the child’s culture. During play, the child plays according to what they have grown up seeing in their society. The teacher, therefore, has the responsibility to familiarize himself with every child’s culture, even in the slightest bit, to relate to the child individually easily. The teacher can ask questions in context with what the child is familiar with, increasing their knowledge, triggering their thinking, and enhancing learning. As the child plays, the teacher can improve the childs communications skills and are excited to talk about or demonstrate things that they have learned from the environment and society that they reside in away from school, according to File (2012).

According to research, the inquiry-based approach has been embraced in the teaching of various learning areas. For example, in social studies, the teacher can analyze the student’s learning by asking questions about the learning story that the teacher introduced earlier. In the learning story that the teacher introduced earlier about independence, the teacher can assign homework to the students to ask the parents further questions about autonomy, then get to class and share the information they acquired. As a result, the students will each share and learn from each other. The inquiry-based approach shifts the routine that students may consider as boring,” which is studying, to a whole different level of learning which is “doing” social studies. This makes the play much more interesting in that the teacher prepares questions that are compelling and are related to the subject at hand. For example, for a much more excelling child, the teacher can make complex methods to enhance the play for the child. Furthermore, according to Ritchie (2003), this will allow the peers to learn collaboratively. For the other children, explicit instructions may be necessary, questioning and modeling that can easily guide their learning during play.

During an experience that involves playing that includes inquiry, knowing the childrens strengths and weaknesses may be beneficial as they facilitate any adjustments that may be necessary regarding the process of learning and the product. According to Hedges et al. (2005), the teacher also has the responsibility to place the needs of each student at the center when planning the program and in the delivery as well. This is to ensure that all the abilities and cultural backgrounds are sufficiently met. In addition to that, the teacher should provide a positive environment for the child by recognizing, appreciating, and engaging in their efforts, learning, and engagement. Consequently, the child will be able to achieve their goals. According to Sellers (2013), it is their responsibility to have high expectations for every child. When a child experiences success, they ought to be motivated to accept new challenges that will increase their learning and growth.

Every play that the child partakes in has the role of engaging the child in meaningful explorations, which trigger their investigative skills and imaginative experiences. According to Hedges (2014), the various types of play are opportunities to engage with, encounter, and elaborate on new skills and knowledge with both the peers and the teachers. These types of the game challenge the students to think more deeply, they can determine the connections and relationships between their learning and the experiences they have had before. Additionally, they encounter and are engaged in learning processes that are more sophisticated and metacognitive-based. It is also an excellent opportunity for the student to interact with both their peers and their teachers.



In conclusion, applying the inquiry-based approach during play is an essential aspect as it facilitates the students learning from different perspectives. A student is enhanced in terms of their investigation skills, and they can imagine and explore their creativity to provide the answers to the questions that the teacher has provided. In addition, an inquiry-based approach in play encourages and builds up the relationship that the child has with their peers and their teachers. The child, therefore, grows up with problem-solving skills and can handle situations that require their cognitive attention successfully. Consequently, it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that when using the approach, they have to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the child as children tend to be different. Therefore, they can monitor the child’s progress concerning the play that has been strategically assigned to the student and may provide help or adjustments wherever necessary. Hence, inquiry during play is an essential aspect when a child is playing as it is for the child’s benefit in the future. Additionally, space is not just that playing but also a pathway to facilitate the child’s cognitive development. Adjusting the task as they successfully progress means that the child simultaneously learns something while participating in fun activities.



Lee, W., Carr, M., Soutar, B., & Mitchell, L. (2013).Understanding the Te Whariki Approach: Early years education in practice. Routledge.

Nuttall, J. G. (Ed.). (2003).Weaving Te Whriki: Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum document in theory and practice. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Sellers, M. (2013).Young children becoming curriculum: Deleuze, Te Whriki and curricular understandings. Routledge.

Ritchie, J. (2003). Te Whariki as a potential lever for bicultural development.Weaving Te Whariki: Aotearoa New Zealands early childhood curriculum document in theory and practice, 79-109.

Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2018). Relational play-based pedagogy: Theorising a core practice in early childhood education.Teachers and Teaching,24(4), 369-383.

File, N., Mueller, J. J., & Wisneski, D. B. (Eds.). (2012).Curriculum in early childhood education: Re-examined, rediscovered, renewed. Routledge.

Hedges, H. (2014). Young childrens working theories: Building and connecting understandings.Journal of Early Childhood Research,12(1), 35-49.

Hedges, H., & Cullen, J. (2005). Meaningful teaching and learning: Children’s and teachers’ content knowledge.


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