Welcome back to our play-based learning series! Today, I’m excited to share tips to incorporate play-based learning for different ages.

Whether you’re a parent raising multiple children, or an educator faced with the task of teaching a split class with various age groups, this article is tailored just for you.

As a mom and a former early childhood educator, I’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible benefits of play-based learning across various developmental stages.

Tips for incorporating play-based-learning for different ages.  From toddler to school agers, there are many ways kids can engage in...

From fostering creativity and problem-solving skills to promoting social-emotional development and enhancing cognitive abilities, play is truly the cornerstone of a child’s holistic growth.

But how can we effectively implement play-based learning strategies that cater to the diverse needs and interests of children at different ages?

From toddlers to pre-teens, I’ve got wonderful tips, below, to support you on this journey.

Play-Based Learning for Toddlers (Ages 1-3)

Toddlers are like sponges, eagerly soaking up every experience and interaction in their environment.

Play is their primary mode of exploration and discovery. So, incorporating playful activities into their daily routine is essential for their overall development.

Tip 1: Follow Their Lead

Toddlers have boundless curiosity and a natural inclination to explore the world around them.

Instead of dictating the play, allow them to take the lead.

Provide open-ended materials like blocks, sensory bins, and play dough, and observe how they engage with these resources creatively.

Tip 2: Encourage Pretend Play

Pretend play is a hallmark of toddlerhood and offers numerous benefits, including language development, social skills, and emotional regulation.

Set up a dramatic play area with dress-up clothes, toy kitchen sets, or dolls and encourage imaginative play scenarios.

These are also a great way for you to join in the fun and let your toddler’s imagination run wild!

Tip 3: Incorporate Sensory Experiences

Toddlers learn best through hands-on exploration, especially when it comes to sensory experiences.

Create sensory bins filled with items like rice, beans, water beads, or textured fabrics for tactile exploration.

Sensory play not only stimulates their senses but also enhances their cognitive and motor skills.

Play-Based Learning for Preschoolers (Ages 3-5)

Preschoolers are bursting with energy, curiosity, and a growing sense of independence.

Play-based learning continues to be instrumental in their development, but with a greater emphasis on structured activities that scaffold their emerging skills.

Tip 1: Introduce STEM Activities

Preschoolers are natural scientists and engineers, eager to unravel the mysteries of the world around them.

Incorporate simple STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities into their play.

For example, STEM play looks like building structures with blocks, experimenting with magnets, or exploring nature through free outdoor scavenger hunts.

Tip 2: Foster Literacy Through Play

Early literacy skills form the foundation for future academic success, and play offers a dynamic platform for language development.

Create a print-rich environment with books, alphabet puzzles, and writing materials.

Encourage storytelling, nursery rhymes, rhyming games, and letter recognition activities to ignite their passion for reading and writing.

Tip 3: Promote Cooperative Play

Preschoolers are beginning to navigate the complexities of social interactions and friendships.

Foster cooperative play by organizing group games, collaborative art projects, and role-playing activities that encourage sharing, turn-taking, and empathy.

Model positive social behaviors and provide gentle guidance to support their budding friendships.

Play-Based Learning for School-Age Children (Ages 6-12)

Even as children enter the school-age years, play remains a vital component of their learning journey.

However, the nature of play evolves to encompass more complex cognitive challenges and opportunities for self-directed exploration.

Tip 1: Embrace Game-Based Learning

Harness the power of games to make learning fun and engaging for school-age children.

Whether it’s educational board games, interactive digital platforms, or outdoor scavenger hunts, games offer a playful yet effective way to reinforce academic concepts, critical thinking skills, and teamwork.

Tip 2: Encourage Passion Projects

School-age children often develop passionate interests and hobbies that fuel their curiosity and creativity.

Encourage them to pursue passion projects or long-term inquiries that align with their interests.

For example, building model rockets, starting a garden, or learning a musical instrument are passion projects.

These self-directed pursuits not only foster a love for learning but also instill valuable skills such as perseverance and problem-solving.

Tips for incorporating play-based-learning for different ages.  From toddler to school agers, there are many ways kids can engage in...

Tip 3: Foster Outdoor Exploration

Nature serves as a rich playground for learning and discovery, providing endless opportunities for exploration and inquiry.

Encourage outdoor adventures like nature hikes, birdwatching expeditions, or gardening activities.

Not only does outdoor play promote physical health and well-being, but it also nurtures an appreciation for the natural world and stimulates curiosity about scientific phenomena.


Incorporating play-based learning across different ages requires flexibility, creativity, and a deep understanding of each child’s unique developmental needs and interests.

Whether you’re engaging with toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age children, remember that play is not just a means of entertainment but a powerful tool for learning and growth.

By embracing play-based approaches in your home or classroom, you’re laying the foundation for a lifetime of joyful discovery and meaningful learning experiences.

Thank you for encouraging the kids to play, learn, and grow together!

Tips for incorporating play-based-learning for different ages.  From toddler to school agers, there are many ways kids can engage in...

Want to know more about Play-Based Learning? Check out more articles in this PBL Series.