Author: Lynne Brooke – Educational Leader

Date: 20 August 2019


The first seven years of a child’s life is recognised as being the most crucial period in their development. The right hand side of the brain develops by the time the child is approximately three to four years. The left-brain does not fully come online until children are approximately seven years of age.

So what does this mean for play? The left-brain is responsible for language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time and the right brain is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination and curiosity. While the child is using their imagination, being curious, problem solving the groundwork is being laid for future learning. Pushing a child into academia too soon can have negative effects on their little brains.

Play on the other hand changes the structure of the developing brain by strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain considered the control centre that is responsible for solving problems, making plan and regulating emotions. To make the most of early brain development children need free- play. Free play is unstructured and child initiated, it allows children to use their imagination, be creative and freely explore and experience the world around them. Laying these foundations first with play in the early years will have long-term benefits of a child’s ability for lifelong learning.

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is the approved learning framework for children birth to 5 years. Educators use the framework to guide their curriculum development. The EYLF reinforces the need for play so that children can explore their world, experiment, and develop new understandings. Play is universal and a natural part of childhood, this is why it is important for educators to have the knowledge of how children learn through play.