Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Play it to Learn it!

It is well known among early childhood educators that play is the key to learning.

So why is play so beneficial? The answer is quite simple once you think about it. A play environment is stress free and without the worries of judgement and failures. Because of this, children feel more confident to explore new topics and make meaning of what they see around them.

For example, Abi may imitate an eye doctor in the classroom after a recent visit. The child has tapped into their background knowledge and confidently practices what she knows. She repeats what she has heard and speaks in a professional tone. She may look into her peers' eyes and ask them to read a letter board that she has created while covering one eye. All of this is important interaction with a new experience in her life!

Sociodramatic play easily ties into literacy due to the print rich environment that we live in. Students notice print and writing all around them such as lists, signs and menus. Naturally, they mimic those same things and interact with form, letters, punctuation etc.

A great way to further learning connected to curriculum in the classroom is to set up sociodramatic play areas in your classroom. These can even be done in the home. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like.

Some examples:
  • Art Gallery: To supplement experiences with an art gallery such as demonstrations of art and visiting museums, rope off a corner of the classroom with plenty of wall space for hanging children's art. In the middle, place a shelf with children's sculptures. Include a stand for patrons to pay for tickets and pick up brochures (either real or made by the children). Nearby, have easels and small tables for artists to do work with plenty of materials. (ex. cash register, money, note cards for naming the artist, gallery maps, etc.)
    • Some questions to explore: Who contributes to the workings of an art gallery? What do exhibit designers/tour guides/patrons/artists/custodians/museum shop workers/cashiers/ticket takers do? What materials and tools do they use to do their jobs? What print materials do they use? How are you using the art gallery to explore the artistic techniques you are learning at other times of the day?
  • Bakery: Supplement a tour of a bakery and cooking activities done in the class with families and teachers with a table for baking. Include a shelf to display baked goods and a cash register stand with money. Include many baking materials such as cookie sheets, pie pans, pots, spoons, rolling pins etc. Some literacy items to include could be recipe books, note cards for recipes, and materials for labeling and pricing objects.
    • Some questions to explore: What kind of jobs are in a bakery? What ingredients, equipment, and tools do bakers/cake decorators/cashiers need to do their work? What literacy materials do they use? What do people bake? How do people learn to bake?

If you would like to see a few videos of sociodramatic play in action, check out these videos here and here.


  1. Posing the question of why play is beneficial to learning in early childhood is a great way to begin the post. Also, your mentioning that a "play environment is stress free and without the worries of judgement and failures" is an excellent point. Risk-free. That should be one of the main objectives of anyone's classroom--especially in early childhood. It is up to us to give them the self-confidence to succeed and enjoy school.

  2. Good Post. Setting up the areas is a good idea and what is beneficial is that these areas are often appealing because they remind them of activities that they want to emulate. For example if a teacher puts a toy telephone in a toddler room, most of the toddlers will flock toward the phone to pretend like they are talking. Gaining insight to what adults do is very appealing to young children and if we provide the opportunity, they will use it.

  3. I love how you introduced the topic. Many people don't understand why play is so important for a child's development. By showing parents how children learn through play it becomes easier to see how important it is. Through dramatic play children are able to explore and create new things. They are learning new vocabulary, collaborating with their peer and using their imaginations. Great examples!

  4. Creating an environment that is risk-free for a child to freely explore is just as crucial to their learning as the other first step of creating a safe environment. If a child is afraid to make mistakes or feels that they are being judged, then they will be less likely to try new things and step outside of their comfort zones.

  5. The idea of a bakery is amazing! It would be so fun to see how the children will react in an area of play like this. Play in the classroom truly enriches the learning experience that the child undergoes in the classroom. I think that by having areas like you mentioned, the children will be able to demonstrate their understanding of lessons.