Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education




Early Childhood Education

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Kelly Sadlovsky

Second Reader

Elisabeth Amirahmadi


play-based learning, developmentally appropriate practices (DAP), early childhood education (ECE), child development, pedagogy


Play-based learning was identified as a developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) within early childhood education (ECE) (NAEYC, 2009). This paper examined current research to determine the impact of play-based learning on the development of preschool and kindergarten children. According to research, play offers effective, innovative approaches to pedagogy that meets children’s diverse needs as a whole learner. Although research has underlined the importance of play for the future of ECE, a number of diverse challenges have created difficulty with implementing play-based learning in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Most early childhood educators have faced increasing difficulty with advocating for play given the pressure to focus on academic achievement and standardized testing. Other challenges have included the stigma of play within society, difficulty defining play, lack of time, inadequate play spaces, and inappropriate expectations (Belknap & Hazler, 2014; Mainella, Agate, & Clark, 2011; Nilsson, Ferholt, & Lecusay, 2018). Studies in this paper examined research on these issues within ECE, effects of lack of play experiences, as well as benefits of play for young children’s holistic development. Supporting the development of children’s full social, emotional, physical, and cognitive capacities was found to most effectively be addressed through inclusion of play in preschool and kindergarten curriculum.

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