Play-Based Learning at HB

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Play-Based Learning at HB

At Hathaway Brown, the Early Childhood Program (EC) uses a play-based approach to educate our youngest learners. By focusing on child-led and teacher-guided play, students learn language, numeracy, and social skills, all while developing confidence in the classroom. Our EC teachers are experts at providing opportunities for children to engage with their environment while making meaningful connections with their peers.

What are the elements of play-based learning?

Play-based learning is composed of five common elements – self-chosen, imaginative, enjoyable, open-ended, and process-oriented. Each works in tandem to help children learn about the world through play. 

  • Self-chosen - HB teachers foster play that is self-chosen by providing the tools necessary to accompany a child’s choice of what and how to play.
  • Imaginative - Playing pretend is an important part of developing empathy, social cognition, and creativity. Every EC classroom includes a dramatic play area where children are free to assume the roles of characters in their imaginations.
  • Enjoyable - Having fun can turn a learning experience into a play. HB’s young learners take risks and are not held back by failure when learning is fun.
  • Open-Ended - By giving EC students time to explore and discover without the limitations of sticking to a plan, they become critical thinkers and problem solvers.
  • Process-Oriented - HB teachers understand that not every child learns the same way. By focusing on the process of play, children can draw their own meaningful conclusions.

What does play-based learning look like?

When you walk into an EC classroom at Hathaway Brown you’ll find children at play. Take a closer look and you’ll see much more. EC teachers create an intentional environment for our students to interact with.

As students arrive in the morning they can be found around the classroom sorting blocks by color and size, practicing writing their names in their favorite color marker, and communicating with their classmates about completing a puzzle. A friendly student might approach you with a handful of animal figurines to tell you that this particular animal is called an ocelot and it lives in the rainforest. Nature is often incorporated into the students’ day and offers a sensory component to their learning.

It’s not always happy feelings in the EC classrooms, but with the help of their teachers, students identify and navigate through big emotions. Social-emotional learning is essential. An opportunity to explore emotions is never missed.

A common misconception about play-based learning is that class is a free-for-all. It is important to understand the difference between intentional play-based learning and haphazard play. At HB play is still present with the existence of boundaries. The day is outlined with expectations, boundaries, and responsibilities for each student. This allows the children to know what to expect as they go through the flow of each day. 

Why is play-based learning important?

Play-based learning affects the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of young learners. Through play-based learning, HB students develop the social skills, curiosity, and critical thinking skills needed to be life-long learners.

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