What really matters in play?

Kateri Thunder*, John Hattie, John T. Almarode, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Alisha Demchak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article seeks to reframe how early childhood educators think about their role in play by answering these questions: What really matters in play? How should we spend our time and energy planning, implementing, and building our expertise around play in early childhood teaching and learning? The answers reside in 5 big ideas from play research studies, meta-analyses, and meta-syntheses. We unpack these research findings and show the implications for practice. Across all 5 big ideas, the common factor is developing language. The quality of our interactions and conversational rounds and the intentionality of our language are pivotal, controllable factors that impact children’s learning and development. Therefore, we must enter children’s play with intentionality to talk with children and to create equitable and inclusive spaces for all children.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory into Practice
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023
Externally publishedYes

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