Play is understanding

Prompt: “Play is a child’s life and the means by which he comes to understand the world he lives in”.

IMGP0811My play: sometimes all you need is your siblings and some rocks…

When I think of play, as an adult, I think of fun, laughter, smiling, and a sense of unrestricted freedom and safety.  While play for children is still all those things, it is also very serious business; time to learn, to discover the world around them, take risks and create identity (Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2010, p. 30).

Ebbeck, & Waniganayake, (2010, p. 205) explore how in countries such a Cambodia, where work is highly valued, children still find opportunities to turn work into play, such as playing tag while guarding crops. When the opportunity arises for play the children also construct small versions of tools used in the fields. These examples show how play is ingrained in children, and that their working culture comes into their play, so it can be understood.

In western societies it seems we so often separate work and play, play being a privilege. We observe children who are over-scheduled with extra curricula activities, with little time for the freedom of play.

Play under the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, is a right, proving the importance of play in a child’s life (United Nations, 1989). Leo Buscaglia (as cited in Oxford Shire Play Association 2011) states in perfectly in saying:

 “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”

I recently had a conversation with friends, where we were discussing the new playground in our town centre. I expressed how I quite liked the new playground, particularly as someone who ‘studies playgrounds’, as a stated jokingly. They laughed at how much fun I have studying early childhood. While it’s a blast, it’s also very serious business to me, as it should be. Not everyone can see the value in play like I do, or simply see the learning that can occur by just looking at an environment. I wish everyone understood and slowly through my work I hope to develop greater understanding so the amazing nature of play can be truly valued.

When the connection is made, laughter and discovery can go hand in hand. As an adult I know completing tasks is so much easier when they’re enjoyable, why then do forget to allow ourselves, and our children fun in learning?


Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2010). Educators guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia: Belonging, being and becoming. ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.

Ebbeck, M., & Waniganayake, M. (2010). Play in early childhood education: Learning in diverse contexts. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Oxford Shire Play Association. (2012). Oxford Shire Play Association. Retrieved from:

United Nations, (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child: Article 31. Retrieved from:

All images sourced from own images.


About Jen

I am a having just completed my bachelor of early childhood education I am tracking my journey through the profession with creativity and wit. I also love fashion, reading, writing and travel.
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