What is Play-based Learning (PBL)?

Play-based Learning or Learning through play is a pedagogical approach where play is the valued mode of learning – where children can explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways.

Play-based learning forms the pedagogical foundation of Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum. It is also becoming a more common approach to learning in junior primary classrooms with some schools trialling play-based learning at middle and senior primary level.

Learning through play is distinct from the broader concept of play. Learning is not necessary for an activity to be perceived as play, but learning is fundamental to learning through play.

An effective learning through play programme enables children to engage in self directed play that is internally motivated. Teachers can support children in play-based learning by providing an enabling environment and sensitive interaction. There is a role for the teacher to discuss, embed and extend the learning with students.

What are the benefits of Play-based Learning?

Learning through play can help schools realise the vision of The New Zealand Curriculum to develop confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners. Almost all of the values and key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum can be developed through play-based learning. 
A range of learning areas can be explored with connections made across learning areas as well as to home practices and the wider world. Learning through play also provides the opportunity to extend the use of Te Whāriki curriculum into early years schooling. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that learning through play brings numerous benefits to students’ learning and development.