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Free Play
Learning through Games
Teacher Directed
Student Directed
What is inquiry play ?

In inquiry play, the play is child-initiated. Teachers extend the play by integrating related academic curriculum expectations.


Why do teachers use it?

Teachers follow the child’s lead and expand upon their interests.

What are some examples ?
  • Paper airplane inquiry
  • Ramps
  • Melting ice with salt

Paper Airplane Inquiry

A paper airplane flies right into the middle of a guided reading lesson. Rather than dissuading this activity, the teacher helps the students create a runway where paper airplanes can be thrown safely without interrupting the activities of others. Other children become interested and begin to construct and fly their own paper airplanes. The teacher embraces this common interest and brings in books about airplanes, including some that contain instructions for building more complicated paper aircrafts. The children begin to vary the styles of their airplanes, testing which will fly farther. The teacher introduces both standard and non-standard measurement tools so that children can determine how far their planes will fly. The teacher introduces the scientific method, suggesting to students that they test out different adherents (e.g., tape, glue, staples) to determine which will facilitate the furthest flight.

Suggested Resources

Books about airplanes, various types and sizes of paper, standard and non-standard measurement tools, various adherents


Show More

During a free play period, a student builds a ramp and lets a toy car roll down the ramp. The teacher connects mathematics learning and provides students with 3D shapes to experiment with. Students use the 3D shapes and determine which shapes roll and which shapes slide down the ramps.

Suggested Resources

3D shapes, blocks to create ramps

Melting Ice with Salt

The teacher sets out a large piece of frozen ice, pieces of string, and salt. Students naturally use the string to measure around the ice. After experimenting with ice and salt, students notice that the salt melts the ice, and the teacher records their observations.

Suggested Resources

Ice, string, salt, containers

We are the Play Learning Lab, run by Dr. Angela Pyle at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.



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