“Play is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein 

For many years ‘play’ in school contexts has been a dirty word.  “There is too much to get done to let them play” has been the sentiment of some teachers for a few years nowPlay is not a dirty word!  Many educational researchers have investigated the benefits of investigative play on students life-long learning capabilities.  They have found that play based learning and investigation supports student literacy skills including development of students oral language,  social and emotional capabilities as well as fostering creativity and imagination.  Learning through play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning in later life.’ 

Walker Learning is an age-appropriate teaching and learning approach, based on child development research, that values students as active participants in their learning and encourages them to learn in the way their brains have been designed to learn.  It prioritises time for children to actively investigate a range of skills for life and curriculum content either through planned play and investigation.  In the Walker Learning Approach play is used as a teaching and learning tool and is not ‘laissez-faire free play’.  Play does not happen when the ‘important stuff’ is finished, instead it is used to meet learning objectives and engage learners.  The types of play seen in a Walker Learning classroom include: 

  • Imaginative and dramatic play– representation of ideas, understandings and perspectives of the world through role-play and imaginative expression. Students pretend, ‘play-out’ scenarios and imagine outcomes to work through their understanding of the world.
  • Constructive and investigative play– hands on manipulation of concrete materials.  Students construct, design and create representations from their imagination.
  • Explorative play– the investigation of properties, cause and effect, natural products and environments in order to understand, test and explain ‘their world’.  Students hypothesise, predict, test, trail, react to and evaluate the phenomena they observe.
  • Directed and scaffolded playteachers supporting and directing students in their learning based on their interest, need, ability or events of significance.  Students are encouraged, prompted and supported to delve deeper into their areas of interest or current investigations in order to make learning deeper and richer.
  • Sensory play– engaging students senses in order to calm students approach to learning and give them a safe outlet to engage in the learning environment.  Students may use water, clay, finger paint, glue, scents from natural materials, items with interesting textures or resistance.  

“Play is the work of the child” – Maria Montessori 

– Article by Sarah Edwards (Head of Curriculum Early Years)

Content taken from:
“Play Matters” by Kathy Walker