Play, learning and the brain
Play, learning and the brain

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Play, learning and the brain

4 Play and learning

‘In play, the child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour.

In play, it is as if he were a head taller than himself.’

(Vygotsky, 1978)

Why are early years practitioners convinced about the value of play?

It is interesting that although writers are able to state what children may learn through play in terms of dispositions, knowledge, skills and attitudes, there is less written on why play rather than any other form of activity is particularly valuable to the young child and their developing brain. BBL begins to address the issues of ‘quality and play’, as Activity 4 explores.

Three teaching elements are said to arise from the principles underpinning brain-based learning taken from the Wilson and Spears article, which you read in conjunction with Activity 2:

  • orchestrated immersion in complex experiences;

  • relaxed alertness;

  • active processing (i.e. meta cognition).

There are many ways in which we can make judgements about ‘quality’ in early years settings including, for example, environmental factors, staff qualifications, staff turnover and the appropriateness of the programme provided. Most importantly, the learning experiences provided need to be developmentally and culturally appropriate in meeting children's needs. Additionally adults and children need to be able to interact with warmth in responsive and reciprocal ways.

To decide how you feel play can fulfil these criteria you should now go to Activity 4.

Activity 4

Observe a child engaged in what you would regard as high quality play.

As you do so, make notes describing the child's level of involvement, commitment, interest, perseverance and emotional state.

Now go to the next section.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371