Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education




Early Childhood Education

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Kelly Sadlovsky

Second Reader

Laura Ahonen


play-based learning, social-emotional, pedagogy, child development, children's play


Play is an essential aspect in the early childhood years, especially during the years of preschool and kindergarten when children’s social and emotional skills are developing rapidly (Denham et al., 2012; Kangas et al., 2015; Kroll, 2017). Even though play is an essential part, allowing children to partake in pretend play during school hours has decreased tremendously due to the push of academics within the school (Aras, 2015). With the rising importance of play as part of the curriculum, there have been previous studies and research explaining the why and the benefits of play and how play has allowed children to develop self-regulation skills needed for later school and life success (Aras, 2016; Ashiabi, 2005; Kroll, 2017). Lifter et al. (2011) pointed out that allowing children to partake in pretend or symbolic play, allowed children different opportunities to develop self-regulation skills. More researchers have concluded, that play has shown improvement in the development of self-regulation skills amongst preschool-aged children (Savina, 2014; Slot et. al., 2017; Lillard et. al., 2012). The nature of this research and literature review is to emphasize the importance of a play-based curriculum with a focus on developing social and emotional regulation within early childhood educational settings. This paper focused on analyzing and synthesizing research findings to inform practices for early childhood practitioners on curricula that support healthy development in preschool and kindergarten students.