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Our Curriculum 


Children today are immersed in technology and popular culture, and have increasing expectations placed on them regarding academic achievement. This places greater pressure on care and education environments to provide programs that focus on and maintain academic pursuits. However the importance of play as a vehicle for learning cannot be underestimated. Early childhood education has a long history of valuing play and this understanding is becoming more prevalent in primary education. It is also emphasised in the new national and Victorian frameworks for early years education and is being revitalised across many children’s services. Promoting play based learning requires adults to rethink their notions of play and develop programs that integrate play and learning into the curriculum.


‘Research shows that children are playing-learning individuals. In an open and tolerant atmosphere, where children are free to make their own choices, both play and learning dimensions will be present. Children do not separate play and learning unless they are influenced by adults.’

What is play based learning?

Play based learning draws from children’s natural desire to engage in experiences based on their interests, strengths and developing skills. When children initiate play, they are more motivated to learn and develop positive dispositions towards learning. The educator’s role in supporting play based learning is vital. Belonging Being and Becoming The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, outlines the many roles educators take in play and the  range of strategies they use to support learning.

These  include:

  • Engaging in sustained shared conversations within play experience to extend children’s thinking

  • Providing a balance between child led, child initiated and educator supported learning

  • Creating learning environments to support learning

  • Interacting with babies and children within play to build attachment

  • Supporting the inclusion of all children in play

  • Recognising spontaneous teachable moments as they occur and using intentional teaching strategies such as demonstrating, and engaging in shared thinking and problem solving.


A play based program;

  • Incorporates children’s ideas and interests into planned experiences and routines

  • Utilises children’s ideas and interests to extend and create new experiences

  • Utilises indoor and outdoor areas to facilitate play and learning

  • Offers a variety of play spaces, e.g. art, dramatic play, sensory, construction

  • Offers a range of open-ended experiences and materials

  • Enables children to self select materials and play independently

  • Enables children to transform play spaces

  • Allows children to play for extended periods of time without interruption

  • Allows children to extend their play and projects for extended periods

  • Allows children to work alone or with others

  • Caters for different abilities and learning styles

  •  Connects experiences to children’s lives

  • Links children’s investigations to key learning areas or outcomes

  • Offers flexible routines that have minimal disruption to children’s play

Benefits of play based learning

‘Play provides the most natural and meaningful process  by which children can construct knowledge and  understandings, practice skills, immerse themselves  naturally in a broad range of literacy and numeracy and engage in productive, intrinsically motivating learning environments.' (Kathy Walker).

A play based program has many benefits for children as it facilitates the development of skills, dispositions and knowledge. An effective play based program can assist children to develop lifelong learning skills that will stay with them beyond the early learning environment.

Engaging in play based learning enables children to use and develop thinking skills such as problem solving, reasoning and lateral thinking. It offers opportunities to interact with others, develop communication strategies and work in collaboration with peers and adults. It can foster literacy, numeracy and the development of scientific concepts. As children are empowered to make decisions and initiate play, they become confident and motivated learners. This in turn fosters responsibility and self regulation. Play also provides children with many opportunities to resolve conflict, challenge unfair play and embrace diversity.

What does play based learning look like in practice?


The aim of the play based program is ‘to promote a sense of wonder, exploration, investigation and interest in a rich range of materials, resources and opportunities in which the child can engage.' (Kathy Walker) The child is viewed as being instrumental to the way in which materials and equipment are selected and organised within the environment. Such environments are often described as child focused as children are constantly engaged in meaningful learning experiences. While children’s interests form the basis of the program, the environment needs to be carefully planned and presented in ways that are inviting to young children.

All experiences are based on supporting a balance of child and adult initiated ideas and investigations, and utilise the indoor and outdoor areas equally. Specific play spaces or areas may be arranged within the environment to engage children in different areas of learning such as art, literacy and construction. Within each area children should be offered a range of open-ended and loose materials that can be used across different abilities and diverse interests. While this is particularly important for mixed age grouping within a single age group, it also enables children to explore their interests using their individual strengths and skills. As these aspects can differ greatly between children.  

Play based program actively supports and includes all children. A key element of the play based program is the opportunity for children to pursue their interests for extended periods of time. Many programs for children rely heavily on themes, pre-planned activities and constant change. Regardless of how often children attend the program, it is vital for play spaces and experiences to be offered over extended periods. This enables children to fully explore materials and master new skills through repeated practice. When guided by children, the educator will soon become aware when experiences and materials need to be changed, extended or removed from the program.

It is also important to consider aspects such as storage and how children’s play and learning will be displayed and shared with families. As children becoming increasingly competent, it is essential to offer more opportunities for self selection and independent play. Children should be free to move equipment and select materials from open shelving and storage areas. These opportunities empower children to construct their own learning and scaffold the learning of others. An effective program also supports self regulation and encourages children to become more responsible for their own play and learning.

The role of the adult in play based learning


A play based program does not limit or reduce the role of the adult in children’s play. Although children are less likely to want adult intervention in their play as they become older, an interested adult can still play a critical role in enhancing children’s play and learning. Effective play based learning requires adults to have a strong image of the child and view them as capable, competent co-constructors of the learning environment. The adult develops positive relationships with children and families and uses their observations of children, information from families and colleagues, and meaningful interactions with children to determine the curriculum. As this knowledge changes, the program is also adapted to mirror children’s changing interests and skills.

The role of the adult in the play based program is to;

  • Interact with and observe children to gain insights into their interests, skills and knowledge

  • Be responsive to children’s cues and the way they use the environment and materials

  • Seek information from families and colleagues to better understand children and plan for their learning

  • Create inviting play areas with open-ended materials

  • Create an unhurried environment where children have time to explore and extend their investigations

  • Seek out resources and information that will extend children’s interests and learning

  • Provide modelling and instruction when required

  • Offer suggestions and encourage children to learn from each other

  • Modify play areas as children’s interest change

  • Be an active learner


The term ‘curriculum’ is used to describe the sum total of the experiences, activities and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development.

At Bentleigh West Kindergarten we view children as competent learners. The Kindergarten’s curriculum is based on a philosophy of teaching in a manner that is creative and stimulating, with a focus on learning from the child’s perspective. Close observation of each child allows our staff to identify interests and strengths, which will then be incorporated into the curriculum.

The program is influenced by the emergent curriculum, and the ‘Walker Learning Approach’ which values children’s ideas, makes learning more visible, celebrates children’s competencies and challenges their thinking. Our curriculum is designed to allow children to make choices, scaffold their learning and developing, and it uses a range of different intentional teaching areas to conduct learning.   

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