Play and learning in early childhood education: tensions and challenges




Play, socio-cultural theory, policy, curriculum, pedagogy


International research promotes the value of play for children’s learning and development. However, in early childhood education the development of national policy frameworks highlights a tension, and possible contradiction, between play for its own sake, and educational play. This paper explores these two positions, drawing on contemporary socio-cultural theories. Freely chosen play reflects children’s choices, interests and inquiries, and is understood as complex socio-cultural activity. Educational play focuses on curriculum goals and outcomes, and requires early childhood educators to plan for play in ways that direct children’s learning towards those goals. Recent research on children’s interests and inquiries offers solutions for pedagogical approaches that connect the curriculum as lived experiences, and curriculum as planned experiences, both of which reflect children’s cultural repertoires and peer cultures.


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How to Cite

Wood, E. A. (2022). Play and learning in early childhood education: tensions and challenges. Child Studies, (1), 15–26.