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'The Playing-Exploring Child': Re-conceptualizing the Relationship between Play and Learning in  Early Childhood Education
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, School Based Research, Preschool Education Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9547-2892
Brooklyn College, USA.
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, School Based Research, Preschool Education Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3353-6170
2017 (English)In: Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, ISSN 1463-9491, E-ISSN 1463-9491Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

In this paper we problematize the dichotomization of play and learning that often shapes the agenda of early childhood education research and practice. This dichotomization is driven in part by the tendency to define lerning in terms of formal learning (i.e. learning as an outcome of direct instruction; and of school-based approaches that focus on teacher-led, goal directed activities and declarative knowledge; and learning in the content areas, such as math and literacy). We argue for a re-conceptualization of early childhood education that understands learning and development not as an outcome, primarily, of instruction and teaching, but as an outcome of play and exploration. We develop this argument by drawing on Vygotsky’s theories of play, imagination, realistic thinking and creativity. These theories challenge another dichotomy -  that between imagination and reality -  by arguing that imagination is implicated in the meaning making of both play and exploration. Instead of relating play to learning where play is characterized by imagination and learning by reality, our re-conceptualization relates play to exploration and proposes that learning, defined as leading to human development, is an outcome of both of these two activities. We further develop our argument by presenting ethnographic material from a qualitative research project implemented in three Swedish preschools, whose practices are influenced by the Reggio Emilia pedagogical approach. The research conducted in this study contributes to new perspectives on the relationship between play and learning by introducing exploration as a counterpart to play, and this new perspective has implications for the design and practice of early childhood education, as well as for early childhood education research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2017.
Keyword [en]
Play, learning, exploration, imagination and realistic thinking
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-32260Local ID: HLKSkolnäraISOAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-32260DiVA: diva2:1045787
Available from: 2016-11-10 Created: 2016-11-10 Last updated: 2017-08-28

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