Understanding Young Children's Learning through Play: Building Playful Pedagogies

Understanding Young Children's Learning through Play: Building Playful Pedagogies

Understanding Young Children's Learning through Play: Building Playful Pedagogies

Understanding Young Children's Learning through Play: Building Playful Pedagogies


This timely and accessible text introduces, theorises and practically applies two important concepts which now underpin early years practice: those of "playful learning" and "playful pedagogies". Pat Broadhead and Andy Burt draw upon filmed material, conversations with children, reflection, observation, and parental and staff interviews, in their longitudinal study of outdoor and indoor play environments in an early years unit. This research-based text offers extensive insights into related theories, as well drawing on the authors' skills and knowledge as researcher and as class teacher in order to provide opportunities for personal reflection and possibilities for practical application in early years classes and settings.

Discussing both indoor and outdoor environments, the text explores ideas surrounding "open-ended play", and "the whatever you want it to be place". It illustrates how the themes of children's play reflect their interests, experiences, knowledge gained at home and in school, and their cultural heritages. By showing how children become familiar and skilful within open-ended play environments, the authors illustrate how the children's co-operative skills develop over time as they become connected in communities of learners. Alongside the examples of children's playful learning, the book also considers the implications for resourcing and organising playful settings through playful pedagogies that connect with the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (DfES 2007) and with the Tickell Review, ongoing as the book went to press.

Understanding Young Children's Learning through Play uses children's perspectives on their play to illustrate how rich their personal understandings are. It also includes parental reflections on what may initially appear a risky and unusual outdoor environment, and it draws attention to the importance of conflict resolution in play in order to extend children's resilience and assertiveness.

This insightful text will be of interest to students of early years education, early years practitioners, academics and researchers.


The book has arisen from a longitudinal study of children’s play over several months in the early years unit at Fishergate School in York. the children are aged from three to five years, bringing together nursery- and reception-aged children with an early years team of educators. the two joint researchers brought their respective skills and knowledge to the study of this play environment. Pat Broadhead brought her own long-standing interests and experience in observing and researching playful learning in the early years, and her knowledge of the theoretical frameworks that assist our understanding of the complexities of playful learning and playful pedagogies. Andy Burt, as the teacher in charge of the unit during the period of research, brought a deep interest in the development of open-ended play experiences for children, good knowledge of the children as players and learners, including their home backgrounds, a dedication to enriching the play experiences of the children through pedagogical developments, and excellent relationships with the early years team that also encouraged their participation in the research. Together we were all able to address theory–practice links in a wide range of ways, using filmed material, observation, reflective conversations and semi-structured interviews.

The longitudinal element has enabled the authors to address that elusive concept of learning and progression though play across a community of learners (children and adults) in a systematic and combined study of insider and outsider perspectives and in so doing, to track the development of knowledge and understanding for children, through playful learning, in an educational setting. the research has also been able to consider in depth the continuity of learning and experience across the key years, ages three, four and five, and to look at the ways in which pedagogical decisions and provision can deepen the impact of continuous, stimulating provision. We are looking especially in this study at the provision of open-ended play materials and the forthcoming chapters are an in-depth exploration of this form of pedagogical provision.

The book presents a model which is explored and unpacked as the chapters unfold. the model juxtaposes playful pedagogy through the study of ‘openended play’ with playful learning as ‘the whatever you want it to be place’ as in Table 0.1. the subsequent chapters explain how the juxtaposition might help . . .

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