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Learning through Play – Knowledge & Understanding the World

Through play, children make sense of the world and this knowledge is the basis for later learning in such areas as science, geography, design and history.

Activities both indoor and outdoor, alone or in company, stimulate curiosity and interest, which in turn lead to exploration, reflection, critical examination and discussion.

Interacting with others gives children the opportunity to gather information about gender, ethnicity and religious issues thereby widening experience. Parent’s and practitioner involvement here is very important as their knowledge and understanding extends their children’s experience of the world around them, helping them to make sense of it and interact with it. However, we need to be careful not to be too quick to provide information or fill in gaps before children have had sufficient time to find out for themselves, or even just to ponder on the possibilities. Ask open-ended questions, such as ‘What do you think about…?’ and ‘I wonder why…?’ and then take the time to REALLY listen to children’s responses. Approaches such as Philosophy for Children remind us that young children are capable of deep philosophical thought and reflection and that adults are often too quick to assume that they hold all the answers!

Questions for reflection

  1. What does Seb find out about the properties of play dough while he is playing with it?
  2. Why do you think Seb is so interested in cooking?
  3. Some people express concern that foodstuffs are often used as play materials eg dried pasta, jelly, cooked spaghetti etc and that this gives children mixed messages, particularly when hunger and starvation are still world –wide problems. What do you think?
  4. Listen to the questions you ask children. How often do you already know the answer to your question? How interested are you in the answer?
  5. Make a list of good open-ended question starters. Now ask children some questions to which you don’t know the answer!
  6. Why do you think Seb and Chelsea enjoy building dens? Why is it an important element of play?



Knowledge and Understanding of the World in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Practical Guidance in the Early Years Foundation Stage – Stella Louis, David Fulton Publishers

More Than Cooking – Developing children’s learning through cooking by Jane Khan (2003) foreword by Heston Blumenthal Early Education

Philosophy for Children