Jul 05

Learning through Play in Pre-K

learningcenters“Play is one of the fundamental principles of developmentally appropriate practices because it allows children to explore their world, interact with each other and adults, and develop symbolic representation and problem solve, all of which serve as the foundation for later school success” (Manwaring, 2011, 6). Classroom play and exploration is essential for young students in their quests to pursue lifelong learning habits as they prepare for later school years and acquire skills to carry on into adulthood. Classroom learning centers are the primary source of play for young students, yet have reduced time frames and have become teacher-directed to the point that students are unable to explore centers on their own learning styles. “Center Time, the primary vehicle of child directed activity and inquiry, is shorter and highly structured by the teacher” (Manwaring, 2011, 7). The lack of freedom in center-based play in the pre-kindergarten classroom has led to fears of students being unprepared for kindergarten. The research involved in this study will allow the learner to explore reasons teachers are not allowing center-based play in the classroom so young students can learn through discovery and exploration on their learning levels and styles.

One study indicated that, while teachers provided lessons and activities in classroom learning centers, they were unaware of the developmental milestones with which these activities met (Kirschenbaum, 2000, 12). “Teachers received a multitude of developmentally appropriate hands-on activities to do in their classrooms, yet they were not receiving the theoretical and research foundations to explain why these activities were done and what children learned from them” (Kirschenbaum, 2000, 14). A portion of the research problem is revealed in previous studies that teachers receive ideas and information to include activities in their lesson plans, but they do not receive information and knowledge to support these activities. Due to the lack of knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices, teachers are unable to teach appropriately and provide adequate kindergarten readiness skills and student preparation. The researcher must work to provide teachers with the proper training and modeling techniques to ensure teachers are prepared for their proper roles as early childhood professionals.

Although the early childhood years are seen as formative years in young students’ educational lives, “VPK (Voluntary Prekindergarten) teachers are not only expected to institute a developmentally appropriate curriculum and to align their classroom practice with the benchmarks, they are also expected to do this without targeted training or support” (Breffni, 2011, 177). Without this essential training and support, teachers are unprepared for the classroom administrative requirements for leading and guiding students for kindergarten preparedness and readiness. For teachers to adequately teach and prepare students, they must be given the proper training, guidance, and knowledge to implement classrooms that foster environments of play through discovery and exploration. Studies indicate that teachers are untrained and ill equipped with adequate means and knowledge to structure classrooms for center-based play; therefore, students are not given the freedom of learning through play and discovery on their individual learning styles.


Stegelin, D. A. (2005). Making the case for play policy: Research-based reasons to support play-based environments. YC Young Children, 60(2), 76-85. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/197688222?accountid=27965

National Association for the Education of Young, C. (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Position Statement. National Association For The Education Of Young Children.

Evangelou, D., Dobbs-Oates, J., Bagiati, A., Liang, S., & Choi, J. (2010). Talking about Artifacts: Preschool Children’s Explorations with Sketches, Stories, and Tangible Objects. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 12(2).

Kirshenbaum, K. (2000, January 1). Helping Preschool Teachers Implement Developmentally Appropriate Child Care Practices Utilizing a 4-Point Strategy To Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten Readiness.

Breffni, L. (2011). Impact of Curriculum Training on State-Funded Prekindergarten Teachers’ Knowledge, Beliefs, and Practices. Journal Of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 32(2), 176-193.

Manwaring, J. S. (2011). High stakes play: Early childhood special educators’ perspectives of play in pre-kindergarten classrooms. (Order No. 3482739, University of South Florida). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 152. Retrieved from             http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/910540991?accountid=27965. (prod.academic_MSTAR_910540991).


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