While the origins and purpose of childhood play has been discovered and documented for some time, the inclusion of play in early childhood education is a concept which has not found its way into the core structure of early childhood classrooms until more recent years. As the need for early learning programs continues to grow, so does the need for developmentally appropriate and beneficial early childhood learning intervention. In this paper, we will review prominent theories and recent research on stages of childhood development and learning, the purpose of early childhood education in the U.S., the nature of play and the forms it can take, and the role of the educator in facilitating play. Through this literature review, we can conclude that learning for infants and children is an active, multi-sensory, experience-oriented process that looks different in every stage of development. Learning can begin before birth and infancy and early childhood are a person’s most formative years. By engaging in play, children learn about and come to terms with their environment, develop normal sensory and motor function, develop social and life skills, develop independence of movement and thought, and learn behaviors that allow them to satisfy wants and needs in a safe, practical, socially acceptable way.

Year Manuscript Completed

Summer 2021

Senior Project Advisor

Dr. Tricia Jordan

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study

Educational Studies

Document Type