12 Jan Play-based learning
Children are intrinsically motivated to play. A play-based program builds on this motivation, using play as a context for learning. In this context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. Play helps children work through their emotions and make sense of the world around. Through play children develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.
Thematic units “social culturele werkelijkheid”
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (Dewey, 1916, p. 239).
Children don’t only learn by playing. It is important that the education for young children is interactive, works with hands-on activities and most importantly is relevant for the children. It is therefore that we work with thematic units that are based on the real world. In this way children are able to relate to real-world experiences and build on prior knowledge of a topic. Thematic units also help us teachers by paving a way to facilitating learning for each own child individual child. Learning through play supports each kid where they are at, so it is differentiation at its finest!
Each thematic unit last between 8-12 weeks (depending on the start of the holiday). Before starting and planning a theme, the educator will brainstorm with the children about what theme should come next or observes where their interest is at. After the brainstorm session the educator gets a day off, a special “thematic day” where the teacher gets to plan the theme. In this way the teacher gets a chance to carefully set the theme up in a way that many areas of the curriculum (math, language, science, social studies etc) are connected and integrated within that theme. Not everything is thoroughly planned out though. With our play-based curriculum we have a student-driven environment, which means that the execution of our theme can be different from our original plan. This all because we follow the child’s lead.
Each theme starts with an exciting activity or incident in order to draw the children in.
Inquiry based environment
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think” (Mead, 1950, p. 16)
Part of our theme-based approach is that children learn how to think. We start the theme by asking the children questions or bringing in problems. We create an Inquiry based learning environment. We have many brainstorm sessions with the children where we talk about the theme and make mindmap that represent our knowledge or our questions. Play therefore requires planning, higher level thinking, cognitive skills, math skills, and language skills.