Young children's perspectives on their learning through play

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


That young children learn through their play is an enduring assumption in the field of early childhood education and care (ECEC) (Ailwood, 2003; Rogers, 2013). This assumption underpins high-quality ECEC curricular frameworks across the world (Bennet, 2005; Laevers, 2005), including recommendations that all early education be play-based (OECO, 2004; Walsh & Gardner, 2006). Hundreds of studies over the last four decades have scientifically investigated learning through play but a tranche of scholarship questions the validity of the assumption that this is how children learn, both on empirical and philosophical grounds (e.g., Lillard et al., 2013; Wood, 2007). The topic has almost exclusively been debated by adults with very little research interrogating the perspectives of the players themselves (Clark, 2005; Powell, 2011). This paper presents findings of a sociocultural case study of young children's perspectives on learning through play. Children aged three to five were selected because, according to sociocultural theory the ages of three to six are the years in which play is "the leading source" of human development and learning (Duncan & Taruili, 2003; Karpov, 2003: Vygotsky, 1933/1967, p. 6). The twenty-six children made 772 comments on learning in 683 play episodes that they helped video-record In a play-based ECEC centre In inner Melbourne. The study revealed the children believed that they were learning whatever was the main activity of the play. A sociocultural framing of the study provided insight into why and how this was the case. Firstly, Hedegaard's (2008, 2009) model of play and their practices of re1nterpret1ng that rule. Secondly, structuring the practices children demonstrated according to Vygotsky's (2004) theorisation of four ways that imagination is connected to reality added a richer layer of meaning to children's comments. Using a consistent sociocultural framing, methodology and analysis the study indicated that children's perspectives align with the prevailing idea that children learn through their play, and furthermore, that children have an incisive understanding of how they are learning, surpassing popular constructivist notions of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event16th Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association Annual Conference: Play: Time, Space and Place - Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 24 Jul 201526 Jul 2015


Conference16th Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated title16th PECERA Annual Conference


Cite this

Colliver, Y. (2015). Young children's perspectives on their learning through play. Abstract from 16th Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association Annual Conference, Sydney, Australia.