Analyse how theoretical perspectives on play inform practice

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.3: Apply theoretical perspectives and philosophical approaches to play
Learning outcome: Understand theoretical perspectives which support play
Assessment criteria: Analyse how theoretical perspectives on play inform practice


On this page, we will explore how the theoretical perspectives on play that we learned about in the previous section might inform your own professional practice.


Piaget’s four stages of play identify the general play behaviours of children at certain ages.


This information can be used by Early Years practitioners to ensure that the right resources and play opportunities are available for children of each stage. It also helps Early Years practitioners to understand the types of play that will best support a child’s learning and development at each stage.

For example, practitioners should provide children of ages 2 and under with play opportunities that allow them to explore their environment with their body and senses. This could mean providing equipment such as baby gyms, drums and rattles.



Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development suggests that children will reach a ceiling of what it is possible for them to learn on their own, and at this stage they will require help or instruction to advance further.

Early Years practitioners should be observant of children, so that when they reach their limit, adults can intervene to help them to the next stage.


Vygotsky also believed that imaginative play is essential for children’s social and emotional development, so Early Years practitioners should ensure that there are resources and opportunities to participate in this type of play. Examples include dressing up, playing with dolls and shops.


Athey’s theory suggests that children master skills through repetitive behaviours and these behaviours are usually based around a central theme or schema.


By observing children, Early Years practitioners can identify the schema that a child is currently working on and plan play opportunities that support this area of development.

If several children in a setting are engaged in an enclosing schema (like sitting in a play house), then practitioners can plan a supporting activity that builds on this skill. This could include something as simple as constructing a mini-fort out of cardboard boxes – an enjoyable and creative way for kids to continue exploring this schema!

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