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Importance and Benefits of Play at ECCE

Importance of play proposed by NCFFS-2022

How many types of Play i.e Free Play

How we can teach at Early Child Care and Education for optimum learning outcome?

Lets learn from National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage -2022

What is play? How do you define play at ECCE? Lets Learn –

The term `play’ in the context of ECCE includes all activities that are fun and engaging to the child. This can take the form of physical play, interaction, conversation, question and answer sessions, storytelling, read alouds and shared reading, riddles, rhymes, or other enjoyable activities involving games, toys, visual art, and music.
Play provides active and stimulating learning opportunities to children, and can be organized in different ways:


Free Play

i. Children choose what they would like to play, how they would like to play it and for how long. This is completely child initiated and self-directed, e.g., solving puzzles, role playing with their peers, reading a book.

ii. Teachers play an indirect role in this, e.g., preparing the environment for Free Play, observation of children at play, and helping when asked for support.

iii. Free Play helps children develop social and self-regulation skills, e.g., leading and following, resolving disagreements, being sensitive to others, managing emotions, and sharing material.

iv. However, children cannot learn everything through Free Play. In fact, they often need specific guidance even while they are exploring on their own.

Guided Play

i. Children lead the activity, but adults actively facilitate the play activity. For example, if children want to play with clay, the Teacher guides the children on how to use the clay, roll the clay, make a shape. Teachers engage in this exercise with a specific objective, i.e.,to help children develop fine motor skills and develop imagination.

ii. Guided Play is considered most effective for enhancing skills related to all domains of development as it opens up opportunities for children and Teachers to learn collaboratively and for the Teacher to engage in discussions and ask questions about children’s play. For example, for development of emergent literacy skills, the Teacher introduces a vocabulary activity, like finding rhyming words from a story and talking about it and introduces games for actively using the vocabulary.

iii. Guided Play is considered effective in the early years as it focuses on child-directed learning with gentle but active scaffolding by Teachers to meet specific learning objectives.


Structured Play -also known as Directed Play

i. These are Teacher-directed, carefully thought-through activities which are fun and
playful but with specific rules and guidelines. For example, the Teacher may ask children to create a story by adding a line each to a scenario in a playful manner, and then have them write it, or organize a story card sequence after a read-aloud session.

ii. Structured Play is most useful for focussing on specific Competencies and Learning Outcomes at the Foundational Stage. Teachers provide planned playful learning experiences through games and activities with rules. This could include storytelling, use of rhymes or songs, guided conversations, language and mathematics games, or a guided walk. This form of play has tighter boundaries set by the Teacher especially the learning sequence to be followed, the rules in a game to be followed, and so on.

Play-based learning has been described as a teaching approach involving playful, child-directed elements along with some degree of adult guidance and scaffolded learning objectives.

National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage-2022

The Play-based Learning Continuum highlights different levels of teacher involvement in play that can support children’s learning in a children-centred and playful environment. The Continuum includes both child-led and Teacher-led activities. Children should get balanced opportunities for play in each year throughout the Foundational Stage including Grade 1 and 2.

 Free PlayGuided PlayStructured Play
RolesChild-led Child directedChild-led Teacher supportedTeacher-led Children actively participate
What do Children do?Children decide all aspects of their play – what to play, how to play it, for how long to play, with whom to play.Children plan and lead their own play, similarly as they do during free play.Children actively listen, follow rules, participate in activities and games planned by Teachers.
What do Teachers do?Teachers organise a stimulating play environment in the classroom, observe children, and help when children ask for support.Teachers offer support and actively facilitate play. Teachers guide the children in different tasks that they are involved in, ask questions, play with the children to meet specific learning objectives.Teachers carefully plan activities and games with specific rules to promote Competencies in a learning sequence. Language and mathematics games, nature walks, songs and rhymes are planned on a daily basis.

Some illustrative, but specific, examples of different kinds of play are given below.

Table 1.4B

#Type of Play Examples
1Dramatic Play/ Fantasy PlayUse a small stick for a horse to dramatize a story. Acting like family members, Teachers, Doctors. Dramatizing a favourite character, e.g., Jhansi ki Rani, Rani Chennamma, Chota Bheem, Shaktimaan.
2Exploratory playJodo, Todo, Phir Jodo – dismantling and assembling objects (e.g., clock, toilet flush, tricycle). Experiments with instruments (e.g., magnets, prism, magnifying glass). Mixing dals chana, rajma and sorting. Sand play, Water play.
3Environment/ Small World playUsing miniature animals, furniture, kitchen set, doctor set to recreate the real world and engage with it. Nature walk identifying trees, plants, insects, birds, animals, sounds, colours.
4Physical PlayExploring the body through music, movement, dramatization, outdoor play, balancing, games.
5Games with RulesHopscotch (Kith Kith, Stapu, Langdi), Tag, Snakes and Ladders, Chaupad,Spinning tops (Lattu, Buguri), Marbles (Goli), Kokla Chapaki, Pitthu, Pallanguzhi.

Resources:- National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage-2022