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Getting Play and Learning to Coexist in Early Childhood Education

By - Simran Ballani, Pedagogical Director - CCE Finland, Doctorate Student - EIU, Paris Workplace Happiness Coach - Berkley USA

An important question I often try to answer as an Early childhood researcher is: “How can students make appropriate academic growth in a play-based learning space”? Creating high-quality planned experiences for children’s play is important for facilitators and schools to support children’s enjoyable and challenging learning.

The Play-way method can enhance certain areas of their learning – making real-world connections, developing language skills by promoting communication between children or introducing new vocabulary they use and act out in their play.

Much has been said and written about Play and playful learning. Both topics are used in extremely different ways in Finnish early childhood education. NEP and Finland's early years both emphasise the meaning of play as a creative space of learning, interaction and well-being. This shapes major training programs at CCE Finland.

Play and learning can go hand in hand if pedagogy meets with the design of such learning areas.

Play and learning can go hand in hand if pedagogy meets with the design of such learning areas. Play, essentially, is noted to create joy and pleasure and thus is a motivating activity. The conception of learning is also based on a view of the child’s active agency. Learning is holistic and occurs everywhere. Children also learn through play, movement, exploration, working on projects, and expressing themselves, in addition to arts and crafts-based activities. Children benefit much from play in the classrooms. It energises the kids, makes them happy, and lets them pick up knowledge and abilities in various areas. Understanding play's intrinsic worth for kids, its pedagogical importance in learning, and kids' overall development and welfare is crucial in early childhood education and care. (Chapter 2.5, "Conception of Learning," The National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education)

A visit to the classroom depicts a planned learning experience for K-2 students through the coaching and training of their early-year teachers on NEP and Finnish Pedagogy. Here is an example of a planned experience for K-2 children - setting up learning stations in classrooms/schools. Such a playful approach to learning builds on children’s interests, responds to their ideas for play, and allows for structured activities to teach specific skills and knowledge. The NEP Finnish Learning Stations will help children develop all sorts of skills through play, such as cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and critical-thinking abilities.

The school’s facilitators curate the NEP Finnish Learning based on Finnish early education’s five essential learning areas:

  • Rich World of Languages

  • Diverse form of Expression stations space. They experience the activities and make real-world connections at each learning station. Each of these stations aims to provide a hands-on learning experience to a child, i.e... learning by doing. These learning stations help them do activities at their own developmentally appropriate level. Each child carries their experience folders back home and reflects on their learning journey with family and friends.

The teachers' learning material used at these stations is the SISU Box, which was designed by CCE Finland’s research team. This is a Finnish preschool in a box with the much-coveted Design From Finland award. SISU box material allows children to develop their creativity, curiosity, self-expression, and skills like mathematics and linguistics. They develop key transversal competencies that help them succeed in future learning.

It is worth noting that high-quality educational spaces inspired by the play method are not standards or prototypes that can be copied from one institution to the next! Such creative spaces only emerge through the process of teacher training, unlearning, reflection, coursework, and the development of teachers in a dynamic school environment.

This learning space was possible after numerous training sessions and practical mind mapping of NEPandFinnish pedagogy. Teachers are coached to view the importance of early years and respect children’s self-initiated actions, points of interest, emotions, and interactions while allowing them to take ownership of their learning!

This case study establishes that play-based learning or playful pedagogy is essential to early years educators' training programs, equipping them to welcome flexible learning cultures and create creative spaces. The Playway method helps children to learn better and be more competent and skilful than in other areas of their lives. Finnish pedagogy, and NEP, too, believe that children are competent and active learners capable of shaping their learning environments and social skills.

Regarding CCE Finland

CCE Finland is a decade-old organisation with an innovative education program at the heart of its system. Based in Tampere, Finland, CCE has over 10,000 alumni making a difference in early childhood education and creative pedagogy across the globe. CCE believes that the early years are the most valuable period of life. In India's new education policy (NEP) and Finland's early years, the highest emphasis is placed on a child's overall growth, development, health and well-being, and academic skills. To find out more, please visit

If you are an inspiring educator, school owner, or parent and wish to bring this progressive experience to your or your child's life, do consider making an appointment or visiting CCE Finland schools to meet our NEP Finnish expert today. Please connect with us at

Author Bio: 25 years of experience in Education, Talent Acquisition, Strategy, Client Servicing for APAC and US markets. Currently, she is engaged with CCE Finland as Pedagogical Director and Communication Head. In this role, she provides strategic pathway for Finnish School Development, Coaching & Mentoring of Faculty & School Leadership, Pedagogical expertise in creative education, ECE Research & Curriculum Innovation, NEP & Finnish Pedagogy Implementations in Schools across India.

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