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“PLAY”, the Curriculum for Early Learners

Educational Support Services

Lauren Thorne

Certificated Sr. Grant Coordinator

Young children are complex thinkers. The way children think, feel, and explore their environment helps inform the planning and implementation of their educational experiences.  Early Childhood Professionals will observe the child’s play and interests and plan a curriculum that focuses on those interests. Play is the curriculum and the child is the center of that curriculum.

Classroom environments should be rich in experiences for the young child.  There should be areas in the classroom that allow the child to pretend, build, create, make scientific discoveries, practice math and reading skills and learn to relate to others in a positive way.  This environment encourages children to be independent learners as well as a member of a community in their classroom society.

“All my child is doing in preschool is playing.” As early childhood professionals, this is a comment we may hear from parents. It is our job to explain the importance of play in their child’s life and what they are learning through those experiences. When parents and teachers work together, the needs and success of the child becomes the link that connects them all.

When young children play, they are incorporating more than one skill. For example; while building blocks they need to decide what they are constructing, calculate what shape, size, weight, and quantity of blocks they will use, and even practice some conflict negotiation when their friend has the block they need.

Programs can access “California Foundations and Frameworks for Infant Toddler and Preschool-Age Children” through the California Department of Education Early Learning and Development System division. These are great resources for a Transitional Kindergarten program as well.  Many early learning programs throughout our county are effectively using these documents to guide their curriculum, provide best practice, and meet the needs of diverse learners through play.

I encourage you to visit to view these documents as well as other publications that CDE has created that support all areas of early learning.


Nancy Norton, Director of Early Learning
Educational SupportEducational Support Services Department
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education

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