Playworlds as an evidenced-based model of practice for the intentional teaching of executive functions

Marilyn Fleer, Sue Walker, Antoinette White, Nikolai Veresov, Iris Duhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Expectations for increased conceptual outcomes in the early childhood education sector have foregrounded a need for more evidenced-based practice in support of children’s play. One such avenue for researching models of play practices that support cognitive outcomes is to study the implementation of Playworlds. Grounded in cultural-historical theory, Playworlds is a model of play pedagogy where children and educators recreate a narrative through dramatization. However, this approach has not traditionally been linked with enhanced academic outcomes. In this study, the researchers used executive functions (EFs) as a pre and post measure for studying the potential development of the learner. As a potential evidenced-based model of practice, we examined the effect of incorporating EF tasks into early childhood programs through Playworlds. Specifically, EFs were incorporated into everyday practices within eight play-based preschool programs in Victoria, Australia, through Playworlds and associated activities. Ninety-one preschool aged children (50% male, M = 54.7 months, SD = 3.94) participated. Video observations and interviews documented teaching practices related to the incorporation of EFs into play-based programs. Findings document gains in EF skills in the context of the Playworld practices. Snapshots of teaching practices provide guidelines for incorporating EFs into early childhood play-based programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-586
Number of pages15
JournalEarly Years
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • early childhood
  • executive functions
  • intentional teaching
  • play
  • Playworlds

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