The Power of Play: Active, Joyful Learning in Action

September 16, 2023


Take a look inside any early childhood space in the CWA Beginning School and you are bound to find children happily at work–their work–the business of play. So, what is the importance of play in early childhood education, and how does it benefit these young learners?”


Recently we have noticed a theme of home, home building, and play about life at home. 


Here the peg “children” all piled on the sofa to have a movie night while the grown-ups brought snacks. The children are using play to process being here at school, away from their families, away from home. They are noticing similarities and bonding with one another.

“What do you snack on when you watch movies? Do you have brothers or sisters?”


The children problem solve real-life problems:

  • More kids want to watch the movie but the sofa is full… now what?

  • Wait for a turn?

  • Shove them off the sofa?

  • Stack on top of one another?

  • Sit next to the sofa?

  • Head to the kitchen and eat all the snacks?


The children worked together and tried out different options, which led to different outcomes.

Tommy has made a Lego home. He worked with intentional focus, designing a home complete with stairs, windows, doors, and the family that lives there. Other children came to observe, and lingered for a while watching him work, perhaps asking a few questions:


“Where do the stairs go?”

“Is that one you?”


And then leave him to continue working. When it was time to clean up several children came to Tommy’s side as though protecting his work and thereby him. No one tried to tell him to clean it up or tried to take it apart. We asked if he was ready to clean it up and if he’d like us to take a picture first: yes to both. The respect and dignity the children displayed toward their peer who had clearly just created something special was inspiring to witness.


During our trip to the meadow, the children noticed that it is also a home for spiders, bees, and spikey blackberry branches. The children immediately intuited that we were in their home, not the other way around. 


The children in fact were reluctant to believe that we were still at school at all. In their minds, we had left the school (a continuation of the children’s home) and entered an entirely different space (the spider, bee, and blackberries’ home). 


Here the children were picking blackberries with Mrs. Perez. Fingers stained red and purple from their juice. The children speak to the bushes as though they are equal members of a community.

The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education

“Thanks for the berries! We’ll save some for the birds, don’t worry.” “Hey, stop poking me!” “Let go of my shirt, Blackberry Branch!”


Why is play important in early childhood education, and how does it benefit these young learners?


The importance of play in early childhood education is paramount. Through play, the children are problem-solving, expanding their vocabulary, communicating, experimenting, using their fine motor skills, developing social and emotional skills, using critical thinking skills, using spatial awareness, and much more. The children are developing relationships and deepening their understanding of their natural world and themselves, particularly in relation to this big new world of “school.” 


We are so lucky to witness the work they are doing.


By Kara Gjesdal, Beginning School Lead Teacher

The Importance of Play in Early Childhood EducationThe Importance of Play in Early Childhood EducationThe Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education