Play Based Learning


Play based learning

What is “Play”?

  • Pleasurable-play is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. Play sometimes includes frustrations, challenges and fears; however enjoyment is a key feature.
  • Symbolic-play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if?’ quality. The play has meaning to the player that is often not evident to the educator.
  • Active-play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or the environment.
  • Voluntary-play is freely chosen. However, players can also be invited or prompted to play.
  • Process oriented-play is a means unto itself and players may not have an end or goal in sight.
  • Self motivating-play is considered its own reward to the player (Shipley, 2008).



  • Brain development: The exploration potential in play is essential for developing and strengthening brain pathways, thereby shaping the structural design of the brain, which is flexible and possesses an “improved potential for learning later in life” (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 9).
  • Cognitive benefits: Through play children learn to explore, identify, take risks and create meaning. Quality play experiences facilitate memory skills and language development – a good basis for academic learning. Other dispositions for learning such as curiosity, creativity and concentration are also promoted through play.
  • Social competence: Play enables children to build relationships, resolve conflicts, negotiate and regulate their own behaviour. In play, children usually have increased feelings of success and optimism as they act as their own agents and make their own choices; they also gain confidence within their peer group. Playing is further linked to the development of resilience and the beginnings of empathy as children begin to understand other points of view.
  • Motor skills and wellbeing: Physically active play allows children to test and develop all types of motor skills. It promotes significant health and wellbeing benefits, as play acts as a known stress release.

How do we assist quality play?

  • We create the social and emotional environment that children need. Secure, warm and trusting relationships are essential for children to feel confidently supported in their explorations and risk taking. We also assist children to make connections with others and develop friendships.
  • Intellectual environment: the mixture between time for free play and intentional conversations, well placed questions or queries extend children’s learning.
  • Physical environment: Stimulating toys and play equipment support a variety of different kinds of play, such as manipulative play (e.g. Lego or Blocks), cognitive play (like puzzles or books), or social play -pretend role play games, often involving dress ups, dolls or similar toys. We also support active gross motor play, for example with stilts, balancing beams or jumping games.


Structure and routine


The golden middle: we allow for enough free play time during the day, but also provide the children with a clear day structure with known routines. Predictable routines enhance the children’s feeling of safety and security within the Possum room and allow them to develop self-discipline and a sense of mastery in handling their lives. Unpredicted changes can leave a child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. Our clear structure is helping children to cope with challenges and reduces stress.

Intentional interest based teaching

Our intentional teaching is based on children’s interests. We recognise displayed interests by single children or small groups and extend on them, by offering related activities or stories to the whole group. If the majority of children are interested in the topic, we continue further and explore the interest deeper, including different facets and modalities where possible.

Guided art experiences are related to the topic of interest and are a very important part of intentional teaching. They enhance different fine motor skills, focus and concentration. For many children, they are also a way of expressing themselves. Of course there are many free art experiences as well, during which the children can fully unfold their creative potential.

Transition to school

The transitioning to school program is about to start again for this year. It is aimed at our senior Possums, which are going to school next year. Within this program, the children extend on learning and practising school relevant skills. This includes the ability to partake in group activities, turn taking and concentration on a project for a period of time as well as fine motor skills such as handling scissors or pre-writing exercises. We also practise number and letter recognition and support the children in writing their own name. However, we do not attempt to already undertake the school curriculum.




The role of music

Music is a great tool to enhance multiple skills – other than musicality itself :

  • Brain development again! Music stimulates different brain patterns that are related to reading, math, and emotional development. More and more studies show a correlation between children who are exposed to music and higher academic achievements.
  • Musical activities foster curiosity and creativity. This manifests during free exploration of different instruments.
  • Some instruments like the xylophone are great to promote fine motor skills and hand/finger coordination.
  • Activities like singing create a sense of belonging to a group and supports social skills, e.g. listening to one another, working in a team and relating to others.
  • Singing enhances language and memory skills, as it involves memorizing and repeating melodies and lyrics.
  • Music can help improve confidence.
  • Music provides excellent concentration and turn taking practise and teaches patience.
  • Music is fun, mood enhancing and a great way to release stress and express emotions.

Music in one form or another is part of our daily routine.

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