Is your toddler enrolled in an early learning program? See below for five ways that your child’s early learning teacher facilitates play-based learning for your child’s development.

1. Time for unstructured play

Early learning centers know that creative and unstructured play are important to toddler development. The majority of your toddler’s day is devoted to choice play—in other words, choosing to play with and whom they want to—without involving computers or tablet screens.

2. “Toys” with multiple functions

The items that toddlers are given to play with are not just what adults would describe as toys. Early learners have access to wallets, cooking utensils like pots, pans, and spatulas, and also clothing. Teachers often model behavior with the play item and then facilitate toddler play with it.

3. Storing items in clear, easy-to-open bins

Play-based early learning centers generally store their play items in clear, easy-to-open plastic bins so that toddlers can choose what they would like to engage with. These bins are rarely tightly packed, but instead allow enough space so that the toddler can easily access everything in the bin without having to empty it onto the floor or table. Additionally, these items are sorted by theme or function (dress-up, cooking, etc.) so that the toddlers can focus on specific items at one time and not be overwhelmed with choice.

4. Teachers facilitating collaborative conflict resolution

Expert early learning teachers know that there will inevitably be conflict between interacting toddlers. Toddlers are given the freedom to play alone or with their classmates. Teachers facilitate conflict by casually observing and intervening when they believe it is necessary.

5. Teachers facilitating critical thinking through open questions

Finally, teachers will occasionally participate in toddler play by asking probing and open-ended critical thinking questions. These critical thinking questions, such as “What else can the blocks make?” or “What else can the box do?” lay the foundation for the necessary critical thinking skills your child will use later on.

What kinds of activities or practices does your early learning center use to encourage play-based learning? Let us know in the comments!


Topics: Learning, Teachers, Child care

Claudia Auger

Written by Claudia Auger

A volunteer for Child Care of Southwest Florida

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