Indicators of Playful Learning

What does learning through play look like?

The relationships between play, playfulness, and learning are complex. For instance, not all play is playful (e.g., a child re-enacting a traumatic event). Not all that might be considered playful resembles what would ordinarily be called play (e.g., a conversation). Although play often supports learning, some kinds of play can also undermine targeted learning.

Based on a review of the research literature, analysis of video from ISB classrooms, observations, interviews and many conversations, we have come to a common understanding of learning through play. Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when learning through play is happening, we have identified three core indicators—choice, wonder, and delight—and believe that when all three are “in play,” playful learning is most likely occurring.

This model is by no means static. Already it has been through several iterations, and intentionally includes blank spaces so educators can make it their own.