Your browser does not support JavaScript. Please enable JavaScipt to view our website.


Lake Avenue Church Preschool is dedicated to providing preschool and school-age children with a safe, nurturing and enriching environment that promotes educational, social, and spiritual growth through play.

What exactly is play-based learning?

6162Play-based learning is a type of early childhood education based on child-led and open-ended play. If you’re picturing preschoolers finger painting or ‘playing house’, you’re spot on.Play itself is a voluntary, enjoyable activity with no purpose or end goal. Believe it or not, activities like this lay the foundation for a child to become a curious and excited learner later in life. Play-based learning helps children develop social skills, motivation to learn, and even language and numeracy skills. Taking initiative, focused attention, and curiosity about the world are all a part of play. Children are naturally wired to do the very thing that will help them learn and grow.

According to the NAEYC,(National Association for the Education of Young Children) “The impulse to play comes from a natural desire to understand the world.”

Elements of play-based learning

Play-based learning includes the following elements:

    A child voluntary chooses to play, how they’ll play, and for how long. An adult may initiate play insofar as he or she invites or suggests play but the child determines the rest.
    Play is enjoyable for the child. This emotional aspect is important. There may be some frustrations or disagreements during play but overall, it’s pleasurable.
    A child has ample time to explore and discover during play. They’re directed by their own interests, not by any prescribed rules or plans.
    There is no end or learning goal. Instead, it’s the process of play that’s important.
    Play often involves imagination, ‘make believe’, or ‘playing pretend’.

Social and Emotional Development

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social-emotional learning is when children “acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Children develop socially and emotionally through play as they imagine the world from a different perspective, understand the differences between themselves and others, learn how to interact with others, and more.

  • Trying on different roles during play helps children learn how other people feel and think. When they role play and act out scenarios, they’re exploring the possibilities of their actions in the real world.
  • The social aspect of play helps children build friendships and learn how to cooperate and work together. It offers opportunities for them to learn to resolve conflict (Blasi & Hurwitz 2012, Erickson 1985, Pellegrini & Smith 1998).
  • Playing with others also helps children establish a sense of self. They can initiate play and make decisions, which empowers them to become confident and motivated learners.
  • Play reduces stress and serves as an outlet for anxiety

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is a child’s growing ability to use their intellect to process information. It includes problem-solving, language learning, and the interpretation of sensations.

Play has been shown to support healthy brain development (Shonkoff & Phillips 2000, Frost 1998). It also engages a child’s mind and helps them hone early literacy and language skills, sensation and perception, and even basic science and math.

  • Doing art like making collages or adding names to drawings helps children learn to represent ideas through images, use letters to convey meaning, and understand the purpose of writing.
  • When children play, they use their imagination. Imagination is all about symbols: a laundry basket symbolizes a car, a stick symbolizes a fishing rod, and so on. Understanding symbols is key to reading and writing, as letters are symbols. The same goes for mathematical concepts and numbers.
  • During dramatic play, children use language to talk to each other. They represent and act out stories, practicing their language and storytelling skills.
  • Children develop an elementary understanding of scientific concepts as they learn how the world around them works. For example, what happens when you stack one block on top of another or what the feathers of a bird feel like.

Physical Development

Physical development refers to gross and fine motor skills development and how a child uses their body. Through play, children build muscle mass and coordination, explore different tactile experiences, and get a healthy amount of exercise.

  • Art and play expose children to different tactile experiences. They learn about the feeling of wooden blocks, soft plushy toys, wet paint, and more.
  • Play increases physical activity when compared to passive forms of entertainment like watching TV or playing games on an iPad (Burdette & Whitacker 2005).
  • Children build muscle mass and coordination as they jump, climb, swing, run, and move during play.

Play-based learning contributes to kindergarten readiness

IMG 1780According to a study conducted by the Gesell Institute for Human Development, even though kindergarten has become increasingly focused on academic skills, children pass cognitive milestones at the same rate as in the past, before kindergarten became this serious. In this study, researchers did cognitive assessments with children ages 3-6 in schools across the country and found there was no significant difference in development between these children and children from past studies from 1925, 1940, 1964 and 1979. Ultimately, teaching academic skills earlier does not affect a child’s natural pace of development. It’s important that when your child gets to kindergarten, they’re comfortable in a school setting, comfortable engaging with other children, and excited to learn. Emotional learning is as important, if not more, as academic skills learning. This is what they will acquire in a play-based program.

Spiritual Development

Furthermore, the child’s spiritual development must not be neglected. Children learn about God’s love for them and experience it through their family and the community around them. Thus, each child must be motivated toward an awareness and responsiveness to God. Children are encouraged to learn about Jesus’ life so they can follow His example and teachings. The Christian character traits of love, kindness, honesty, sharing, and thankfulness are emphasized in all aspects of the daily program. Spiritual formation goals for each student are integrated into the curriculum through formal Bible lessons and are lived out through the lives of our Christian educators as they teach and work with the children.