Early Childhood Education/Early Years

Debra Laxton and Marilyn Leask with inputs from the MESH Early Years Editorial Board | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
Early Childhood Education/Early Years
Effective learning
Activities and Types of Play
Case Studies

Play Types

With thanks to Debra Laxton, University of Chichester.

a.          Play to Promote the Building and Maintaining of Relationships

  • Allow children to engage in play freely and discover objects and materials whilst providing a secure base for children to explore from. Be warm and responsive to verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • The ‘dance of dialogue’ (Read, 2014) – Consistent adults foster relationships with specific children, learn about them as individuals to attune to their needs.
  • Engage in two way communication from birth
  • Use stories to support emotional literacy i.e. for children to identify feelings, manage emotions and develop empathy.
  • Use feeling stones and carved branches to support emotional literacy.
  • Play ‘peek-a-boo’ games
  • Songs that use children’s names e.g. Hello song
  • Be a play partner and co-learner
  • Turn taking games
  • Games to encourage self-control e.g. dead lions

b.         Play to Promote Language and Listening

Conversation is the major priority: introducing words for everyday objects, colours, rhymes and concepts up/down, hot /cold, fast/slow, big/small. Culturally specific stories help a child, understand history, how we live with each other, how we live every day: in our culture, this is what we do.

  • Encourage ‘talk’ through warm reciprocal relationships
  • Create dens and quiet spaces for children
  • Short, meaningful circle times to share experiences
  • Stories
  • Action songs and traditional rhymes
  • Display drawings of children and their families to encourage talks and shared experiences between children and adults that hold meaning, local environment.
  • Sound discrimination games e.g. listening walks
  • Use familiar and unfamiliar objects to distinguish and identify different sounds
  • Fantasy role play
  • Space to act out personal experiences

c.          Play to Promote Literacy

  • All of the above (Language & Listening)
  • Pictures, books and texts as available
  • Story telling
  • Create situation stories that mirror children’s lives/ experiences
  • Story scribing
  • Writing materials available for role play
  • Language games e.g. rhyming words

d.         Sensory Play

  • Play with natural materials e.g. pebbles, sticks
  • Malleable materials as available for exploration
  • Games that promote sensory integration so therefore include sounds, sights, movements & touch combined or all at once e.g. Parachute games

e.          Physical activities (fine and gross motor skills)

  • Use the outside environment and community space for learning and going for walks
  • Obstacle courses e.g. tunnel crawling, tree and climbing
  • Engaging in sports e.g. running races, egg and spoon race
  • Engaging in hand eye/ foot eye coordination activity e.g. throwing, catching
  • Balancing opportunities e.g. logs, benches, tree stumps, on a chalk line
  • Dancing
  • Body percussion
  • Music and movement sessions
  • Body movement action songs e.g. head and shoulders, jelly on a plate, row the boat
  • Floor based play time for babies to use different muscles and movements
  • Outdoor imaginative play
  • Ribbon/ material strips for waving and movements – ribbons on sticks and dancing scarves
  • Handle a variety of tools, objects and materials in different contexts inside and outside
  • Small loose parts play for manipulating
  • Provide time and opportunity for children to manage their own toileting and dressing needs
  • Den building

f.           Problem Solving

  • Den making
  • Natural resources for exploration

g.          Art and music

  • Making and listening to music and sounds
  • Songs, poems and rhymes including those with associated movements including rocking, swaying, bouncing, finger and toe songs or clapping

h.         Play for mathematical development

  • Shape walk
  • Number songs and rhymes
  • Games with dice
  • Sorting activities e.g. with natural materials, everyday objects

i.           Play to promote understanding the world

  • Imaginative role play
  • Exploration of environments e.g. indoor, outdoor, local community
  • Stories to gain an understanding of self and empathy for others
  • Exploration of living things e.g. plants, habitats
  • Exploration of open-ended materials, natural and reclaimed, to encourage children to investigate, developing their curiosity, imagination and creativity
  • Vigorous physical activity (impact on body)
  • Adjustable ramps, materials and objects
  • Exploration of light and dark and Sunlight and shadows – drawing around shadows at different times of the day, measuring shadows