Susan Isaacs on Play.

Alistair Bryce-CleggABC Does A Blog, Boys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Continuous Provision, Creativity, EYFS Policy and Practice, Nurseries, Play, Uncategorized5 Comments

At the moment I am putting the finishing touches to a new book that I am writing for Sage all about play.

I have always really enjoyed writing about my own thoughts on Early Years education, but in creating this book I have had the opportunity to go back, re-read and discover what other people have to say about it.

One of my favourite re-reads has been The Educational Value of the Nursery School by Susan Isaacs. Her writing is so relevant to today it is hard to believe that it was first published in 1937!

Isaacs was a pioneer of children’s play putting the development of emotions and feelings at the heart of her practice. She was committed to children using play to solve the problems that they encountered in their everyday lives. She based a lot of her thinking on careful observation of children at play and was keen to point out how different children’s needs were at each stage of their development. She encouraged practitioners to be aware of this development and provide an environment that was rich in resources to meet the needs of the children playing within it.

(photo courtesy of Early Education)

Through her writing she outlines many of the common behaviours in children that we would now refer to as schematic play and recognises the importance of children being able to move and handle a variety of objects not only to facilitate imaginative play, but also real, practical problem solving.

(photo courtesy of Early Education)

So much of what we know and do in Early Years today is thanks to the work and play of Susan Isaacs.

“If we were asked to mention one supreme psychological need of the young child, the answer would have to be ‘play’ – the opportunity for free play in all its various forms. Play is the child’s means of living and of understanding life.”  The Educational Value of a Nursery School Susan Isaacs 1937

Early Education  produced a reprinted edition to mark their 90th birthday. You can download a copy here The Educational Value of the Nursery School

Some of the pictures that Early Education have added from their archives are classics.

Just imagine the captions you could add to this one!

(photo courtesy of Early Education)

That set of rope ladders is in the classroom…Also, I think the girl who has climbed up on the table is not actually hanging out of the window – she is looking at whatever is in the tank. Let’s hope she didn’t fall in…

It is maybe not compliant with today’s health and safety standards but fantastic for engagement, resilience and general fun!

Seriously, download it and give it a read and you will see that sadly the fight for play as an effective means of learning is not a new phenomenon. All the more reason to keep the discussion going.

Have a great and playful weekend


5 Comments on “Susan Isaacs on Play.”

  1. This really encourages Early Years Practitioners to re-think and develop play based learning opportunities that cater for children’s developmental needs and interests.
    We need to facilitate their curiosity and provide open ended resources to invite them to be free to explore and create
    Learning happens all the time we need to stop and really look at what a child is doing without our own interpretation

  2. Hi Alistair. Am very passionate about the benefits of learning through play & obsessed with understanding how children develop!! PLEASE do a conference in Belfast sooon!

  3. Thank you for this document.. you are such an inspiration and I can’t wait to attend your CPD in Gems Founders School in 2020 next year.. Have a lovely day

  4. Ah Alistair, you are such an inspiration! This couldn’t come at a better time for me, I’m a nursery teacher that is currently writing an assignment for my masters and really needed this to back up some of my research! I’m coming to your conference in Durham soon and CAN’T WAIT!

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