It clearly resonates with people’s core sensibilities that play is central to young children’s learning and development, writes Dr Sandra Hesterman at WA Today.
In the field of early childhood education, international and national research shows comprehensively and conclusively that play-based learning has far reaching benefits that include inspiring creativity, fostering resilience and self-regulation, supporting the achievement of educational outcomes, and nurturing the child’s identity and wellbeing.
In the context of children’s diminishing access to quality play experiences, particularly in the early years of schooling, Early Childhood Australia WA with the assistance of other WA key early childhood advocacy is campaigning for the development of a WA play strategy; and is seeking cross-community support to launch this initiative from both individuals and organisations concerned for the education and care of young children in this state.
The demise of play is attributed largely to the push-down of more structured programs for younger children and the increased formalisation of learning at an earlier age.
Alarmingly there is evidence the very word ‘play’ in early childhood education has become problematic and play itself has become a contested activity in schools where sedentary and rote learning have taken stronghold of the early years curriculum.
While the nation has a mandated Early Years Learning Framework to ensure the provision of high quality play-based learning, the reality is child-initiated and self-directed play has been marginalised to such an extent in WA that pre-service teachers have very limited opportunity to see it in practice when completing their school practicums.
ECA WA believes that the development of a state play strategy has the potential to elevate the status of play at home, in early learning and development centres, at school and in the local community. The play strategy initiative will hopefully result in a government-lead play strategy similar to what is now established in Scotland.