Early Childhood Learning


“Research and practice suggest that children have a much greater potential to learn than previously thought, and therefore early childhood settings should provide richer and more challenging environments for learning” (Worth, 2010).

In this section we will discuss a basic outline for developing an Early Childhood Learning Curriculum. However, it is the duty of the teacher to understand their own curriculum needs with respect to their personal teaching philosophy, the institutional mission, the community, and the specific needs of the learner.

Play as a Learning Tool

“Most researchers independent of their philosophical orientation seem to agree that including play in early childhood curriculum is a necessary condition for ensuring optimal growth and development of young children.” (Bodrova, E., Deborah, L., 2010)

“Free Play” = Child directed play and internally motivated.

“Sociodramatic Play” = An ideal environment to develop social, emotional, physical, and self-regulatory skills. However, not usually associated with academic learning.

“Teacher-Guided Play” = Initiated by adult(s) and geared towards a specific learning goal. Not usually associated with developing social and emotional skills.

“Mutually-Directed Play” = Teachers are involved involved in play activities but do not take-over the activity. Both teachers and students have control over the activity.

“Digital Play” = Provides the opportunity to play with technology. Technology may be essential to lives later on professionally, but may lack the ability to develop physical skills that are essential to healthy development.

“In order to promote play-based learning opportunities, parents and educators may wish to structure the environment ahead of time. By providing a range of toys (e.g., wood blocks, arts and crafts, puzzles, books, costumes), children would be more likely to create pretend play and explore new possibilities. In addition to setting up the learning environment, parents and educators are encouraged to allow children to freely choose their actions while still providing subtle guidance in order to ensure they explore the right aspects of the environment and/or game to reach the learning goals.” (Pyle, 2018).

Academic Learning / Developmental Learning

“Researchers focused on the developmental benefits of play-based learning have emphasized the importance of free play and a passive teacher role, while researchers focused on the academic benefits have emphasized the importance of teacher-directed and mutually directed play with an active teacher role. Few studies have addressed the topic of integrating developmental and academic perspectives together.” (#34, Pyle, 2018)

S.M.A.R.T. Activity for Early Childhood Learning

Science and Nature

Objective: Students will explore, observe, and interact within the natural environment.

Method: Students will walk outside in the appropriate playground space and interact with the environment. They will be encouraged to see, hear, and touch their surroundings in a polite, respectful manner. Descriptive and active words will be used by the teacher to help facilitate language skills.

Math and Logic

Objective: Students will count and organize objects found in nature such as rocks, grass, shells, etc.

Art and Design

Objective: Students will draw what they see and discuss the difference between the objects they find.

Reading and Writing

Objective: Teachers will help student recognize letters and symbols that represent the different objects students encounter.


Washington State Department of Early Learning


WA State Early Learning Teaching Certification


Curriculum Guides In Early Childhood Learning (Books):


What is Early Childhood Education?


Science in Early Childhood Classrooms: Content Process


Play-Based Learning (Complete Topic):


Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement:




Common Interview Questions for Early Learning Teacher








Bodrova, E., Leong, D. J.. (2010, September). Curriculum and Play in Early Child Development. Retrieved from Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development: http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/sites/default/files/textes-experts/en/774/curriculum-and-play-in-early-child-development.pdf

(#34) Pyle, A., DeLuca, C., Danniels, E. A scoping review of research on play-based pedagogies in kindergarten education. Review of Education.
2017:1-41. doi:10.1002/rev3.3097

Pyle, Angela. (2018, May). Negotiating a Holistic View of Play-Based Learning: A Commentary. In: Tremblay RE, Boivin M, Peters RDeV, eds. Pyle A, topic ed. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/play-based-learning/according-experts/negotiating-holistic-view-play-based-learning-commentary. Published May 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.

Pyle, Angela. (2018, February). Play-based learning: Synthesis. In: Tremblay RE, Boivin M, Peters RDeV, eds. Pyle A, topic ed. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/play-based-learning/synthesis. Updated February 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.

Worth, Karen. (2010). Science in Early Childhood Classrooms: Content and process. Retrieved from ECRP: http://ecrp.illinois.edu/beyond/seed/worth.html

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