Playful structure: a novel image of early years pedagogy for primary school classrooms

Glenda Walsh, Liz Sproule, Carol McGuinness, Karen Trew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Playful structure is a new pedagogic image representing a more balanced and integrated perspective on early years pedagogy, aiming to blend apparent dichotomies and contradictions and to sustain and evolve play-based practice beyond Year 1. Playful structure invites teachers and children to initiate and maintain a degree of playfulness in the child’s whole learning experience, even when the learning intentions demand a supportive structure. Thus, playfulness becomes characteristic of the interaction between adult and the child and not just characteristic of child-initiated versus adult-initiated activities, or of play-time versus task-time. The paper is based on intensive observations and interviews with teachers in Northern Ireland who participated in a play-based and informal curriculum. This paper explains how playful structure rests on complementary processes of infusion of structure into play-based activities and infusion of playfulness into more structured activities, illustrated by cameos. ‘Infusion’ suggests the subtle blending process that allows apparent dichotomies and contradictions to be resolved in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-119
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Years: An International Journal of Research and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Playful structure: a novel image of early years pedagogy for primary school classrooms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this