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purposeful play takes a hold in pre-k
Posted in on April 20, 2023

Lots of playtime probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think about going to school. But for Arlington ISD’s pre-K students, purposeful play is a big part of every day.

The key word is purposeful. The play is incorporated into the curriculum and is designed to foster curiosity and encourage learning in the district’s youngest learners. Purposeful play in pre-K is detailed, intentional, engaging, data-driven and differentiated based on the learner.

“Developmentally-appropriate purposeful play is an engaging way to develop children’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical skills,” said Nadia Azari, Arlington ISD early childhood specialist. “It encourages creative thinking while achieving intended learning outcomes.”

Why play?

Play is how young children learn. They are innately curious, and they feed and foster that curiosity through playful sensory-rich experiences that encourage kids to explore, discover and ask questions.

Through playful exploration, children discover the world around them and learn to make sense of it. When they find meaning and purpose in their play, they learn.

“Children do this primarily with their five senses,” said Ken Foster, Arlington ISD early childhood specialist. “What does it look like, sound like, smell like, taste like and feel like? To adults, it looks like playing. However, to the child, it is engagement in learning. The more sophisticated children become with using their five senses, the more efficient they become with adding new information.”

Play is the vehicle for students to be able to grow and develop many skills, including social and emotional skills, fine motor skills and problem-solving skills. They also improve their vocabulary and gain the confidence to try new things.

Purposeful play teaches the whole child, meeting them where they are developmentally, and providing the building blocks for a solid educational foundation.

What does play look like in pre-K?

Pre-K play can take many different forms, including singing songs, read-alouds, art projects and so much more. But, as Nora Cloud, a pre-K teacher at Duff Elementary, said, it is “always intentionally planned to achieve set goals from district-based standards.”

Cloud explained how the types of play can vary throughout the day.

“There are times that the play is very open-ended, such as STEM tubs or themed centers,” she said. “During free choice center time, the students take the lead and the teachers are there to support the interactions. These have a learning goal but the path to get there isn’t as defined. There are also times throughout the day that are heavily teacher led and structured but incorporate songs, dance and games. These are followed by activities that support the lesson and provide ample opportunities for the children to interact with a variety of materials, their surroundings and their peers.”

Pre-K is about preparing young students to start kindergarten and kick off a life-long journey of learning. Purposeful play is designed to do just that.

“When asked what they did at school, my students might answer with, ‘I played!’” Cloud said. “They’re not wrong. But there’s so much more to it.”

Register Now

Registration for pre-K 3, pre-k 4 and kindergarten for next school year is now open. Start the process online here or visit the school your child will attend. Learn more at and feel free to contact the pre-K team at (682) 867-9418 or with any of your questions.

And check out this post with lots of important dates and details about pre-K registration.

All Aboard! Registration Event

Who knew registering for school could be so fun? All Aboard! is a registration-support event at McNutt Elementary from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on April 22. But it’s a whole lot more than just live support to help you get your child registered. There will be train rides for the kids, an inflatable obstacle course, raffles, food and lots more. Get more details here