Nothing is more valuable than play
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Nothing is more valuable than play when it comes to boosting development and learning

by Freya Lucas

February 13, 2024

Play, many early childhood educators have come to hear, is ‘the work of children’ – a perspective which has been the source of some debate


Despite this, for many, considering play as the work of children elevates the work of the early childhood sector, and provides a strong platform from which to advocate for the dynamic development and growth which happens for children in the first five years of life. 


There exists a delicate tension, in this work, between the educator providing children the space to explore, while also recognising all the wonderful moments where they could, or should, intervene to both support and scaffold the children in their ‘work.’ 


In recent years, part of this tension has existed in the space of thematic learning, and whether or not the presence of a ‘theme’ to guide children’s learning and exploration is helpful or unhelpful. 


For children’s educational providers hey dee ho educational services having theme based learning is a way to take children – many of whom they only see once in a week – on a journey of learning, imagination and discovery while also respecting children’s autonomy and interests. 


“In each of our four programs – hey dee ho music, fun-key yoga, hey dee ho active 8 and The Fiction Factory – we have a ‘theme of the day’,” hey dee ho Director Jenny Wilkinson explained.


“We find that by having a theme we are quickly able to orientate the children to the purpose of our time together, and to get them focused and engaged with interesting and fun topics such as pirate adventures, a day in the Australian bush, or learning more about dinosaurs.” 


The specialist facilitators from hey dee ho are experts at weaving in child and educator input, and linking in with learning already happening in the program. 


“We often have unicorns coming for a swim at the beach, or having children stretch up as high as a crane building a tower,” Ms Wilkinson explained. 


Providing scaffolding and support for children’s play and exploration 


When children play, their world is opened up to many different ways of learning. Play helps children to build confidence, develop social skills, learn about caring for others and the environment, and develop social skills. 


Supported by the team at hey dee ho, children engage in weekly sessions of music, drama, literacy, yoga and physical development, expanding on the important role of the educator in facilitating and extending their play.


During sessions, facilitators support and scaffold children’s learning in a dynamic way, allowing them to role play different characters with puppets, or by bringing props and provocations to the play space. 


Through the use of props, provocations and themes, facilitators can quickly connect with a diverse group of children, and use the platform of the theme to learn more about their needs and interests. 


“Our themes serve as a jumping off point for further exploration,” Ms Wilkinson explained. “Much like the presenters on many popular children’s programs, our facilitators take children on a journey of discovery and imagination, providing them with an opportunity to engage with what they are seeing and hearing, and to join in with the fun while also experiencing deep learning.” 


For more information about the unique learning opportunities available in service from hey dee ho, visit, email [email protected] or phone 1300 139 631. 

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