Play is children’s navigational tool for life’s journey

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein

Through Play children learn about life and the world we live in.

Play helps children to navigate their journey from birth to adulthood.

It helps children to become responsible adults who will contribute to society and who in turn will help to develop and nurture the next generation of children.

The benefits of play are various and numerous, it enables children:

  • to be happy, healthy and confident
  • to be emotionally strong and self-assured
  • to express themselves in a wide variety of creative ways
  • to have a strong sense of identity, belonging and self-awareness
  • to develop trusting and respectful relationships
  • to learn how to cooperate and work with others
  • to become kind listeners and honest communicators
  • to develop independence, self-resilience and resourcefulness
  • to become active learners and brave explorers
  • to take risks and make discoveries
  • to be able to cope with challenges and adversity
  • to develop an innate sense of fairness and courage to deal with unfairness
  • to have a positive outlook and holistic approach to life

 “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw


NCCA (2009) Aistear: the Early Curriculum Framework

Early Childhood Ireland: Why Play?


Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

Teaching young children nursery rhymes has many benefits:

  • They help children to develop early communication and language skills, both verbal and non-verbal.
  • Often nursery rhymes are recited as part of group, this helps the children to develop their social skills.
  • They help children to develop their cognitive skills by learning the words, tune and rhythm of the nursery rhyme.
  • They help children to expand their imagination.
  • They provide children with a sense of achievement when they have learnt the rhyme and they become confident learners.
  • They provide children with a sense of belonging and help to strengthen relationships with their family, friends and preschool staff.
  • They help children to develop their vocabulary and develop their literacy skills.
  • They can be link across generations, nursery rhymes are enjoyed by grandparents, parents and children alike.
  • Nursery rhymes are fun!

Types of Nursery Rhymes

List of Lullabies

Helping Young Children acquire english as an Additional Language

Tips for Preschool Staff when helping young children to acquire english as an additional language:

  • Ensure everyone feels welcome.
  • Build your relationships with the child and their family.
  • Make sure you are pronouncing the child’s name correctly.
  • Help the child learn the names of staff and children.
  • Learn Key Words in the Child’s Language.
  • Ensure the child’s ethnic diversity is reflected in the Preschool environment, e.g. posters, toys, dolls, books.
  • Be consistent in the language that you use.
  • Group rhymes and songs are a great way to encourage confidence.
  • Emphasis to parents the importance of maintaining their own language at home.
  • Praise and encourage all attempts to communicate.

See also Play is the Universal Language.


Play is the Universal Language

Play is the universal language and the children connect and interact together easily and fluidly through Play activities. Sometimes two children can be chatting to each other and they are speaking to each other in their own language and while they cannot understand their verbal language their non-verbal language is their shared, common and mutually-understood language.

At this early stage in the term we have focussed on helping the children settle into Preschool and getting to know the staff and the other children. There is an extra layer of complexity to this process this year because so many children have english as their second language. We are currently focussing on helping the children learn each other’s names by naming children as we play together, introducing and re-introducing children and playing naming games. We also have photos of the children around the room and the children often walk around the room pointing at the photos and repeating the names.

The children communicate very well with each other but where we have experienced some difficulties is when staff are communicating with the children or the children are communicating with the staff. Building relationships with the children and their families is key at this stage because quite often we are relying on non-verbal cues to understand a child’s needs.

See also Tips for Preschool Staff when helping young children to acquire english as an additional language.

First – Then Boards

First – Then Boards are very helpful when helping children to learn to complete specific tasks. For example First “Wash Hands” Then “Eat Lunch”.

First – Then Boards facilitate positive behavior support for children. Children know what is expected of them and this can reduce frustration and anxiety.

First – Then Boards display two activities, the first is usually a non-preferred activity and the second is preferred activity. The child must complete the first activity before doing the second.

The Picture Cards are fixed to the First – Then Board by Velcro and can be switched to different cards as required.

First Then

What are Picture Cards?


Making your own Picture Cards

Making your own Picture Cards is very simple.

Resources Required:

Access to the Internet, Printer, Card, Laminator, Velcro


  1. There are many free images available on the internet, search for “free pecs images”.
  2. Choose an image as clear and simple as possible.
  3. You can also take a photo for the card, if using a photo keep it as simple as possible with the background blank and only one object in the photo. Some children have difficulties generalizing so try not to include details such as the name of a book or labels on food or drinks etc.
  4. Using Word insert a text box, type the name of the item/activity in the text box, I prefer to place it at the top and middle of the text box and I use Calibri size 14 font. Including the text word with the image ensures that all using the card are using the same vocabulary.
  5. Insert your image, this can be in color or black and white but try to be consistent across the images.
  6. Resize your text box, I have found that sizing the picture to 2 inches by 2 inches works very well.
  7. You can fit up to 9 images onto your page.
  8. Save the images so you can reprint at a later date if required.
  9. It is a good idea to make a few duplicates of each image in case one gets lost. And if using the image in different places make sure you use the same image each time.
  10. Print onto the card.
  11. Laminate and cut out individual pictures.
  12. Place a small piece of Velcro on the back of each picture.
  13. Store pictures safely.


Wash Hands Pic

Velcro Tips

  • Place the rough or “hook” side of the Velcro onto the Board because it gets most use and is easier to clean with a dry toothbrush.


What are Picture Cards?

Social Stories

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often find it difficult to interpret and understand social cues, social rules and social context.

Social Stories can help children who have difficulties developing social skills to learn how to respond appropriately in social situations.

Social Stories are brief descriptive stories that provide information about a social situation. This information will help children to understand the expectations of a situation.

Social Stories are a tool that can be used by parents and early childhood teachers to help prepare a child for a new situation, to address challenging behaviour or to teach a new skill.

Please see this website for more information about Social Stories:

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder please click on this link:

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?


Potential strengths of children with ASD

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have these strengths:

  • Good recall of information over a long period of time
  • Specialist knowledge in topics of interest
  • Exceptional memory for facts and figures
  • Very high level of motivation in topics and activities that are of interest
  • Ability to carry out tasks with a high degree of accuracy
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Good at understanding and following instructions and rules
  • Exceptional skills in creative arts, such as Art and Music
  • Ability to see the world from a different perspective and so bring a different insight
  • Ability to bring an innovative and original approach to problem solving
  • Tendency to be honest and non-judgmental
  • Tendency to have a strong sense of loyalty in all social relationships
  • Unique sense of humor
  • Passionate about hobbies and interests
  • Enthusiasm for favorite interests with a drive to share this enjoyment with others
  • Problem solving skills, very logical, visual and structured thinkers
  • High-level of concentration skills, ability to persist and focus on detailed activity
  • Excellent Mathematical and IT skills
  • Strong rote memory abilities
  • Good at visual learning and thinking

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

What is the DSM-5?