Play-based learning strategies for foster carers


As a foster carer, being involved in the education of your foster child is an important way to support their learning and development. Some children or young people may have had a difficult relationship with education growing up. School can be characterised by disruptions or perhaps not seen as a priority because of challenges in their home lives. Play-based learning can have a positive impact on children’s attitudes towards education and make it less intimidating. In this guide, we’ll explain what play-based learning is, and strategies foster carers can implement at home.   

What is play based learning?

Play-based learning is a context for learning where children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they engage actively with people, objects, and representations. It combines child-led play with a specific learning intention. Play-based learning is often most effective with younger children, but as children get older, they can still benefit from play-based learning with more complex scenarios.   

Types of play-based learning

Play-based learning can take many different forms like messy play, cooking, and baking and can be quite practical and hands-on. One of the main benefits of play-based learning is that there are no negative repercussions or wrong answers. Some of the main types of play-based learning include:

Role play

Role play involves the child imagining and reenacting real-world scenarios. For example, they could play going to the supermarket, take a pet to the vet or imagine they are a Roman emperor.

Imaginative play

Imaginative play is when a child uses their imagination to come up with their own stories. They could act out the story with their toys, act like they are in an imaginary world. This type of play has no rules or limitations, allowing children to freely express themselves and experiment with different ideas.

Exploratory play

Exploratory play is when children use their senses to explore and investigate different things. It’s a great way for children to learn how to problem-solve effectively. Exploratory play can include water play, messy play or playing games like hide and seek.  

Small world play

Playing with action figures, dolls or toy animals and allows children to create their own world and use their imagination. They might explore their thoughts and feelings by acting it out with figures, or they may explore real life scenarios.  

Physical play

Physical play can include a wide range of games where children use their bodies to take part in physical play. This is when they develop their motor skills and can include activities like;

  • Throwing and catching
  • Running
  • Bouncing a ball
  • Hopping and jumping
  • Dancing to music

It’s also a good way to exercise and learn the importance of being active.

What are the benefits of play-based learning

Play-based learning offers foster children the opportunity to engage in activities that aid their educational and emotional development in a supportive environment. Some of the key skills that they’ll learn to develop in play-based learning include;

  • Emotional skills: Having a safe space to play allows foster children to express their emotions in a creative way. Acting out scenarios can help them to process difficult emotions and come up with coping strategies. Play-based learning provides a safe space for your foster child to regulate their emotions effectively.
  • Social skills: Play based learning often involves playing with other children, or practicing social situations which allows children to practice cooperation and conflict resolution. This can help them to form positive relationships with their peers.
  • Problem solving: Exploring different scenarios and senses allows foster children to engage in problem-solving and decision-making. They can also learn how to overcome physical challenges through problem-solving in a way that encourages curiosity and critical thinking.
  • Self-confidence: A nurturing and supportive environment can allow foster children to develop self-confidence. They can build a positive sense of self-worth by taking risks and celebrating accomplishments.
  • Language and communication: Play-based learning encourages foster children to communicate verbally and express their thoughts and ideas. Playing with their peers helps improve comprehension and communication.
  • Resilience and trauma response: Play based learning can be especially helpful for children in foster care who have experienced trauma. Play gives foster children an outlet for processing their trauma and dealing with the emotional impact in a safe and controlled environment.

Here at Capstone, we have a therapeutic approach to everything we do. Creating a safe and loving environment is essential for the happiness and development of your foster child. As part of our therapeutic approach, we provide a bespoke service Multi-disciplinary Assessment Treatment and Therapy Service (MATTS). MATTS provides mental health support to children at the point of need, which includes access to various specialist clinicians, helping you to develop a safe space for your foster child.

Ready to start your foster carer journey? Find out more about how much foster parents get paid, or how to apply to become a foster carer. Or, if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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