Play-based Learning

Introducing Play-based Learning

In the Pre-Prep at St John’s, a play-based approach to learning is adopted, reflecting and supporting the way children of this age learn. Play-based learning encourages skills of independence, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity and communication.

Why we believe in play-based learning for our early years

The latest research on learning in young children demonstrates that those who learn through play, show improved attainment, well-being and learning dispositions such as creativity. It offers a risk-free environment where children can explore ideas and deepen learning and understanding through application and collaboration. It gives children a range of experiences that build connections in the brain, helping them to develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.

How we implement a play-based learning approach

Play involves active learning, problem-solving, investigation, creativity, collaboration and reflection. The approach at St John’s involves a balance between child-led discovery time, adult-initiated activities and adult-led activities.

Child-led discovery time: During discovery time, the children are given autonomy over their choice of learning activity and are encouraged to explore and discover through play. This is carefully planned for and the pre-prep classrooms are resourced in such a way as to provide a safe, challenging environment that is centred around and reflects the children’s interests.

Adult-initiated activities: Teachers will introduce a starting point such as an invitation, provocation, theme or other stimulus. The children are encouraged to explore from there. The quality of the resources aims to stimulate purposeful play. In adult-initiated learning, the teachers have a clear purpose promoting certain knowledge or understanding.

Adult-led activities: The pre-prep teachers will introduce and teach specific curriculum concepts and skills in adult-led sessions. These sessions can follow on from observed play or they can act as a stimulus for it. A skill or concept taught can then be embedded through the use of small teacher led groups or by setting relevant challenges in discovery time. In adult-led sessions, teachers know the desired outcome.

What St John’s children think about play-based learning

“We made a massive map of the UK on the classroom floor. I made the Tower of London from recycled materials and a fact file too. I want to see the Tower in real life now!”

“We made porridge like Goldilocks in Discovery Time. We used oats and soya milk. I topped mine with lots of fruit. I like cooking, it is really fun.”

“We read the book ‘Pierre the Maze Detective’ and afterwards I decided to build a giant maze in the classroom and program the Beebots to be navigated around my maze pathways.”

Providing an inspiring learning environment

We recognise that a well-planned and resourced setting will support engagement and therefore encourage valuable learning. At St John’s attention is given to providing high-quality play materials, that are well-matched to the activities – for inside and outside learning. Children take a great pride in caring for their environment, including their architect-designed classroom, the landscaped woodland, forest garden and allotment.