Playworlds as an evidenced-based model of practice for the intentional teaching of executive functions


Expectations for increased conceptual outcomes in the early childhood education sector have foregrounded a need for more evidenced-based practice in support of children’s play. One such avenue for researching models of play practices that support cognitive outcomes is to study the implementation of Playworlds. Grounded in cultural-historical theory, Playworlds is a model of play pedagogy where children and educators recreate a narrative through dramatization.

However, this approach has not traditionally been linked with enhanced academic outcomes. In this study, the researchers used executive functions (EFs) as a pre and post measure for studying the potential development of the learner. As a potential evidenced-based model of practice, we examined the effect of incorporating EF tasks into early childhood programs through Playworlds. Specifically, EFs were incorporated into everyday practices within eight play-based preschool programs in Victoria, Australia, through Playworlds and associated activities. Ninety-one preschool aged children (50% male, M = 54.7 months, SD = 3.94) participated.

Video observations and interviews documented teaching practices related to the incorporation of EFs into play-based programs. Findings document gains in EF skills in the context of the Playworld practices. Snapshots of teaching practices provide guidelines for incorporating EFs into early childhood play-based programs.

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We Acknowledge
Nature Play WA acknowledges the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation, as the custodians of the land where our team lives and works. We also acknowledge the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and recognise the continuing connection of Indigenous people to their land, waters, sky, culture and community. We pay our respect to all Indigenous people of this land; ancestors, elders and young ones.