Playful Learning: Early Education that Makes Sense to Children

Celia Genishi, Anne Haas Dyson, Lindsey Russo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter we address the question of what early education consists of when it makes sense to children. A socially just curriculum for young children provides multiple pathways for children to participate in school in ways that respect their need for time to learn and space to play. We illustrate how contexts that are playful—full of play—not only make sense but are essential to early education. Unfortunately, in many classrooms the daily schedule is full of academic lessons, focusing mainly on narrowly defined aspects of reading and writing. These settings have become “play-less,” despite the long-lived assertion that play is the source of children’s learning. We begin with a brief description of lessons that may not make sense to children because of their predetermined structure and narrow objectives. We then focus on contrasting child-structured examples that foreground language and literacy in classrooms where children from prekindergarten (preK) and kindergarten engage in diverse kinds of play. We conclude that curricular moves toward social justice require new mandates: first, to stop requiring children and their teachers to engage in repetitiously constraining activities and, second, to start expanding curricular spaces to incorporate the many forms of play that children embrace without instruction.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPromoting Social Justice for Young Children
EditorsBeatrice S. Fennimore, A. Lin Goodwin
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-007-0570-8
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-0569-2
StatePublished - Apr 5 2011

Publication series

NameEducating the Young Child


  • Head Start
  • home language
  • imaginative play
  • Head Start Center
  • play episode

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Playful Learning: Early Education that Makes Sense to Children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this