Playing to learn in Finland: Early childhood curricular and operational contexts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


In this chapter, we outline the definition of play-based learning in both Finnish and international literature as well as describe how Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC) curriculum guidelines describe play. Further, we describe play activities in early childhood education practices from the viewpoints of operational cultures and the learning environment. We use both content analysis of the national curriculum as well as observational data in order to illustrate the national play-based learning context. We use mixed methods design, where various types of data sets are in a dialogue to complement and confirm the findings from each other. This provides wider and more in-depth information of play-based learning orientation in the Finnish ECEC context. Finally, we take a critical perspective on the Finnish operational cultures and suggest developmental objects. The findings suggest that even though play-based learning is understood to be one of the key factors in Finland, it does not seem to have a strong presence in the National Curriculum Guidelines for ECEC (mentioned as a word only 55 times). However, the concept of play-based learning and teaching is quite new in Finnish teacher education, where previously play has been mainly a focus of observation that gives information about children’s competences and skills. Teachers’ competencies need to supported so that they see themselves as active enablers and supporters of children’s play activities. Therefore, up-to-date research from the Finnish context is also needed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolicification of Early Childhood Education and Care : Early Childhood Education in the 21st Century Volume III
EditorsSuzanne Garvis, Sivanes Phillipson
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-30395-9, 978-1-032-08683-5
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-203-73053-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameEvolving Families

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences

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