Guided Play: Principles and Practices

Competing trends in early childhood education emphasize the need for strong curricular approaches and for unfettered exploration. We propose an approach to early learning that avoids this false dichotomy: guided play. Guided play takes advantage of children’s natural abilities to learn through play by allowing them to express their autonomy within a prepared environment and with adult scaffolding. We provide examples of how guided-play situations have been implemented in past work, as well as evidence that guided play is successful for education across a range of content perhaps even more successful than other pedagogical approaches.

Competing trends in early childhood education emphasize the need for strong curricular approaches and for unfettered exploration. We propose an approach to early learning that avoids this false dichotomy: guided play. Guided play takes advantage of children’s natural abilities to learn through play by allowing them to express their autonomy within a prepared environment and with adult scaffolding. We provide examples of how guided-play situations have been implemented in past work, as well as evidence that guided play is successful for education across a range of content perhaps even more successful than other pedagogical approaches.

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