How we learnPlay to LearnReggio EmiliaThe Ontario (Canada) Kindergarten ProgramKindergarten Education Curriculum Guide

Play to Learn

Research tells us that a child's ability to fully and freely engage in play is essential to their learning, productivity and overall development.

Children have a lifetime to be adults; we encourage them to enjoy their childhood with playful, interesting and developmentally appropriate activities. We create opportunities for exploration, creativity and use of imagination. Growth and development are unique to each individual and are sensitive to each child’s time clock. We believe life is a journey and not a race.

Play in Kindergarten Education: Practitioners Informing ResearchersBetty Yau, PrincipalInterview by The Education University of Hong Kong
FK校長訪問:孩子主導學層,探索自主人生Betty Yau, PrincipalInterviewed by shemom
融合大自然及遊戲的學習法Winsy Poon, Education and Parent ConsultantInterviewed by Champimom

Values and Principles: Why Play?

A natural drive to play is universal across all young mammals, from lion cubs playfully wrestling and baby monkeys jostling to kittens rolling a ball of yarn. These young ones are exploring their world through play in a manner similar to humans.

Play is a crucial vehicle for exploring and learning, developing new skills, building relationships and connecting with others.

Play has key neurological, cognitive, socio-emotional and physiological benefits for children’s health. Pretend play has been linked to creativity and creative problem-solving. Play has been described as practice in divergent thinking, because in play, children are constantly coming up with new ideas and recombining them to create novel scenarios. Most importantly, play is the way in which children form loving, trusting relationships. There is a close link between play and healthy cognitive growth.




Play and Brain Development

Early childhood educators and developmental neurologists agree that the first eight years are a critical time of brain development. Some neurons in the brain are wired before birth, but many are waiting to be programmed by early experiences. The early environments where young children live will help determine the direction of their brain development. Children who have the opportunity to develop in organized, intentional and appropriate environments are challenged to think and use materials in new ways. Brain research indicates that there are important “windows of opportunity” that exist during the early years. These are considered the prime times for brain development in language, logical thinking, music, vision, and emotion. Appropriate and interesting experiences during the early years have positive impacts on child development by creating brain connections that last a lifetime.

Play and Literacy

There are consistent findings and good evidence in research that increasing opportunities for rich symbolic play can have a positive influence on literacy development. Pretend play with peers engages children in the same kind of representational thinking needed in early literacy activities. Children develop complex narratives in their pretend play. They begin to link objects, actions, and language together in combinations and narrative sequences. They generate language suited to different perspectives and roles. Play lays the foundation for later academic success in reading, writing, communication and speech.

Play and Numeracy

When children engage in building with blocks, playing with sand or exploring with water, they are developing skills that lay the foundation for logical mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning and cognitive problem-solving. Play fosters creativity and flexibility in thinking and solving problems, which are crucial to numeracy development. The brain is a pattern-seeking device. Patterns are found in nature, art, music, movement, children’s stories and in mathematics. The ability to find patterns in the everyday world through play helps to build foundational skills in math. Play provides hands-on experiences with real-life materials that help children develop abstract scientific and mathematical concepts. Play is critical for the development of imagination, creative problem-solving and development of numeracy skills.

Play and Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Development

Through play, children gain skills and practice in:

  • developing fine and gross motor skills
  • developing hand-eye coordination
  • learning about cause and effect
  • developing reasoning and analytical skills
  • experimenting with people and things
  • exploring and acting out their feelings
  • sharing and relationships
  • developing independence
  • making predictions and drawing conclusions
  • learning to create, explore, organize and try out solutions
  • taking risks, trying new concepts

Excerpts sourced from: Earlychildhood NEWS and Alliance for Childhood (2002)

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education developed in Italy over 70 years ago, is inquiry-based and values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity, which drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.

Principles of the Reggio Emilia Inspired Approach

Children are capable of constructing their own learningThey are driven by their interests to understand and know more.

Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions and relationships with othersThere is a strong focus on social collaboration and working in groups where each child is an equal participant whose thoughts and questions are valued. The adult is not the provider of knowledge. Children search out knowledge through their own investigations and become their own knowledge makers.

Children are communicatorsCommunication is a process; a way of discovering things, asking questions, using language as play, playing with sounds rhythm and rhyme. Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences. They are listened to with respect, believing that their questions and observations are an opportunity to learn and search together. It is a continual, and collaborative process. Rather than the child asking a question and the adult offering the answers, the search is undertaken together.

The classroom environment is recognised for its potential to inspire children. It is considered the third teacher next to adults (parents & teachers) and the other childrenThe environment is filled with natural light, order and beauty. It is an open space, free from clutter where every material is considered for its purpose, and every corner evolves to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests. The space encourages collaboration, communication and exploration while respecting the capability of children by providing them with authentic materials and tools. The space is cared for by the children and the adults.

The adult is a mentor and guide, learning with the childOur role as adults is to observe our children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further. The projects emerge based on the child’s interests.

An emphasis on documenting children’s thoughtsIn Reggio-inspired settings, there is an emphasis on carefully displaying and documenting children’s thoughts and progression of thinking. Teachers make the learning visible in many different ways: photographs, transcripts and explanations, drawings, posters, videos, etc. All is designed to show the child’s learning process.

The ‘Hundred Languages’ of ChildrenThe Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes hands-on discovery learning that allows the child to use all their senses and all their ‘languages’ to learn. Children express their learning in many different ways (the hundred languages of children) which demonstrate their understanding. They express their thoughts and creativity through drawing, sculpting, dance and movement, painting and pretend play, modelling and music, and each one of these hundred languages is valued and nurtured. These languages or ways of learning are all a part of the child. Learning and play are not separated.

Information sourced from:

The Ontario (Canada) Kindergarten Program (2016)(K1,K2,K3)

The Kindergarten Program (2016) is designed for 4 and 5-year-olds over a two-year school period. It describes how educators will help children learn through play and inquiry. Based on the most up-to-date information about child development and how children learn best, the Kindergarten Program provides a smooth transition from home or child care settings and a strong foundation for learning in the years to come, leading to long-term knowledge. This philosophy compliments the Reggio Emilia approach.


  • Play is recognised as a child’s right, and is essential to the child’s development;
  • Children are viewed as competent, curious, capable of complex thinking, and rich in potential and experience;
  • A natural curiosity and desire to explore, play and inquire are the primary drivers of learning among young children;
  • The learning environment plays a key role in what a child learns, and how they learn;
  • Assessment supports the child’s learning and autonomy as a learning.

The Kindergarten Program follows four frames of broad learning areas, used to help our Educators structure learning and assessment:

  • Belonging and Contributing - a child’s sense of connectedness to others; their relationships and understanding of community and the world around them.
  • Self-Regulation and Well-Being - a child’s thinking and feelings, recognition of and respect for differences with others; regulating their emotions; their physical well-being.
  • Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours - communication through thoughts and feelings, the different forms of communication; literacy awareness; mathematics awareness; engagement in learning and developing a love of learning, to build a habit of lifelong learning in children.
  • Problem-Solving and Innovating - exploration of the world through natural learning to engage the mind, senses and body; making meaning of the world through asking questions and testing theories, solving problems and engaging in active learning; innovative ways of thinking, stemming from natural curiosity.

At Fairchild, we believe that through children being involved in applying innovative and creative ways to problem solve, they will develop critical thinking skills and achieve good all round development in the four areas of learning. As active participants in their own learning, children are more engaged and are exposed to many more meaningful life experiences which build their foundation towards being responsible citizens of the future.

Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide (2017), Hong Kong Education Bureau “Joyful Learning through Play, Balanced Development All the Way” (Pre-Nursery Classes, K1)

Fairchild draws upon best practice from around the world to ensure children are readily prepared for the primary school of their choice.

The Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide is a framework from the local Hong Kong government, which outlines key areas based on the developmental stages of learning from aged two to six years of age.

Through the use of real-life themes, an integrated approach and a play-based learning approach, the curriculum framework covers six learning areas:

  • Self and Society
  • Nature and Living
  • Physical Fitness and Health
  • Arts and Creativity
  • Early Childhood Mathematics
  • Language

It also includes the following areas to promote children's’ balanced development:

  • Moral Development (Ethics)
  • Cognitive and Language Development
  • Physical Development (Physique)
  • Affective and Social Development (Social Skills)
  • Aesthetic Development (Aesthetics)


  • To foster children’s balanced development in the key learning areas;
  • To help children develop good living habits and a strong and healthy body;
  • To foster in children an interest in learning, and inquisitive mind and eagerness to explore;
  • To instil in children positive values and attitudes.

These aims are consistent with the aims we have for our children at Fairchild - we want children to be the future innovators of the world, to think out of the box and to be confident embracing change in our constantly moving world.