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20 Play Based Learning Ideas for the Curriculum Aligned Classroom

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Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 5 min read

When I think about playtime at school, morning recess or lunch break immediately come to my mind. Who else is in the same boat? Is this really how it should be?

The fact is, when children play they are doing much more than just ‘playing’.

Research has shown the benefits of high-quality, play based learning environments on child development and education. While playing, children are developing important social, cognitive and physical skills, as well as a love for learning and desire to engage in the learning process.

Play Based Learning Inspiration

What is Play Based Learning?

Essentially, classrooms that foster play based learning digress from the typical students seated in rows, and focus more on providing enriching hands-on learning stations around the room. These can either be topic aligned or focus on a more broad area, such as literacy or numeracy, which the teacher updates as new concepts are introduced. Programs such as Montessori, Kath Walker Learning, and the Reggio Emilia approach to learning all encourage similar methods of teaching. For more information on this last one, give Holly’s blog Reggio Emilia Approach in the Classroom.

In her paper on Why Play-Based Learning?, Early Childhood Australia’s Lennie Barblett states that when it comes to successful play based learning experiences, certain characteristics are agreed upon;

  • pleasurable and challenging
  • symbolic
  • active
  • voluntary
  • process oriented
  • self-motivating

What this means to each teacher is different! And when combined with focused, hands-on learning experiences, can be implemented in any classroom. What’s important, is that children are free to engage with the learning experiences in a flexible manner.

If you’re still not sure what all this fuss is about, take a look at this wonderful inspiration from some beautiful Instagram savvy teachers!

Instagram Play Based Learning Inspiration!

Whether you follow a directed program or are just wanting to inject a little more ‘play’ into your day, we have some brilliant Instagram inspiration for you (and some of our own resources to help you recreate this in your classroom)!

#1 Positional Language Study

This fun tray from @learnwithmissvb shows how your students can study the language of position by re-creating the path in a book for them to explore! Try this out with our Positioning Word Wall Vocabulary.

Play Based Learning 1

#2 Look At the Scoreboard!

Do your class find maths difficult to relate to? Take a look at @wonderandplayinece and their table! But don’t just limit this activity to AFL! Any football code can be used to consolidate so many number concepts.

Play Based Learning 2

#3 Rock On

Questions as simple as ‘What do you see?’ can lead to endless possibilities! Why not let them answer the question in a way of their choosing? definitely has the right idea by letting her students explore their content with hands-on samples!

Play Based Learning

#4 Tinker Toys

@following_missfitz has fostered responsible, inquisitive students with this tinker table. The aim is not to tell them what to build, the aim is to watch their creativity and curiosity grow.

Play Based Learning 4

#5 Tangram-tastic!

These tangram activities promote a number of key learning areas! Our Tangram Treats – Task Cards and Templates provides amazing tangram activities for a range of ability levels! @4theloveofkindy has used theirs for some fine motor work.

Play Based Learning 5

#6 Comic City

@playexploreandabc has introduced comic-book text types and characterisation in the coolest way! Our Comic Strip Templates and Inference Comics – Worksheet are great resources to use in conjunction with a play based learning station like this!

Play Based Learning

#7 Fun Rainbow Facts

@myenchantedclassroom puts a relaxed spin on learning rainbow facts! Students have a range of concrete materials to help them consolidate their number facts at this station. We have some great Rainbow Number Facts Resources to help you with this one, too! Play Based Learning 7

#8 Ordering the Washing

How cute is this washing line number activity that @miss_pagana has put together for her lucky students?! Fine motor and ordering numbers in one!

Play Based Learning - Washing Line

#9 More or Less with Ladybugs

These cute critters will have your class exploring more or less with flair. While not as broad as your regular play based learning experience,@environmentasthe3rdteacher, students will love working through this activity at their leisure.

Play Based Learning

#10 Unplugged Coding Play

@pictures_from_prep shows us how it’s done with this coding station for her prep class! You’re never too young to explore coding! Our Classmate Coding – Flashcards and Activities are the perfect resources to complement this activity.

Play Based Learning

#11 Money Matters!

What better way to teach the concept of money than a real-life shop?! Check out this set up by @missklessensklassroom. Our Money resource area will without a doubt have something to help you out.

Play Based Learning

#12 A-MAZE-ing STEM Challenges!

@investigative_classroom has used our STEM challenge cards to create an amazing construction station! Get together a bunch of construction resources, as well as STEM Challenge Cards – Lower YearsSTEM Challenge Cards – Middle Yearsor STEM Challenge Cards – Upper Years get your students designing!

Play Based Learning

#13 Treasure Maps Ahoy!

You’ll not walk the plank with this engaging mapping learning area by @thecuriousinvestigator! Teach the skills of mapping along with our Pirate resources, including the Pirate Mapping Skills Worksheet!

Play Based Learning

#14 Exploring Emotions

@twoteachersatthepark have taken some time and consideration with these interchangeable stones to help their students explore Emotions.

Play Based Learning - Emotions

#15 Musical Construction

When combining engineering and music, magic happens! That’s what @wonderandplayinece‘s students discovered in their Art Area!

Play Based Learning

#16 Fine Motor Skills

A station such as this fine motor area is perfect for your students to fidget with at the beginning of the day, or when they’ve finished an activity early! Nice one,!

Play Based Learning - Fine Motor

#17 Happy Habitats

This habitat tray area is an ideal way to learn about different habitats through play! @myteachingcupboard has nailed it with this investigative area which allows students to explore the earth, animals and plant types in each habitat.

Play Based Learning - Climate Zones.

#18 Hands-On Spelling

When it comes to learning through play, targeted spelling activities can be restrictive. This spelling activity by @myenchantedclassroom ticks all the boxes when it comes to flexibility and student-driven learning.

Play Based Learning - Spelling

#19 Materials and Messiness!

@myteachingcupboard has done it again with this combination station, teaching a range of amazing Verbs along with Properties of Materials.

Play Based Learning - Science Fun

#20 Exploring Nature

Another wonderful one from @wonderandplayinece, because it was just too beautiful to not include! They’ve let their students drive their learning with this interactive bird’s next display.

Play Based Learning

What’s your approach to play based learning?

Tag us @teachstarter to share your ideas!


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