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Yarra River guided play - teaching demonstration

Children participate in a guided play experience, creating a Yarra River waterhole for native Australian animals.

In this video, children participate in a guided play experience, creating a Yarra River waterhole for native Australian animals.

The educator models relevant concepts and vocabulary, provides links between children’s play and previous learning experiences, and extends upon children’s ideas and play.

Watch on Vimeo Yarra River guided play(opens in a new window)

Reflective practice


The linking of the children’s current experience to past learning opportunities in nature.

The educator’s use of rich language to remind children of what animals and plants they saw.

The educator following children’s interests, and guiding (but not directing) the play.

Reflection questions

  • Why are previous lived experiences important as introductions to this experience?
  • What kinds of lived experiences did the children reflect during their play?
  • What are some examples of complex vocabulary introduced by the educator during the experience?
  • What is the link between vocabulary learning to cognitive development and friendships?
  • How does the educator use questions to scaffold and extend children’s language?

Learning experience plan

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • early language users, language and emergent literacy learners(18 –60 months)
  • learning foci: concept development and vocabulary, making meaning and expressing ideas (interacting with others)
  • teaching practice: play (interacting with others).

Outcome 4: learning

Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity:

  • use play to investigate, imagine and explore ideas.

Outcome 5: communication

Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes, exchange ideas, feelings and understandings using language and representations in play.

Victorian Curriculum level F-2: Language

Understand the use of vocabulary in familiar contexts related to everyday experiences, personal interests and topics taught at school.

Learning intentions

  • Developing children’s concept knowledge and vocabulary about the Yarra River habitat and the animals that live there.
  • Facilitating children’s independent and cooperative play.

Assessment of learning

This is demonstrated when children:

  • use language to describe aspects of the Yarra River play scene, and link these to prior experiences
  • engage in independent and cooperative play with the educator and other children.


  • various native Australian animal toys
  • pebbles and stones to represent the river
  • material to create the river bed
  • pieces of wood and other natural materials for children to use.

Group size

Small group (2-5 children).

Experience process

Before the experience

Take children on a walk through nature and explore different aspects of the wildlife and their habitat.

Introduce children to concepts of wildlife, habitats, how rivers flow, and their importance for the environment.

  • Set up a play area with the toys and materials available for the children to use.
  • Invite children to join you in creating a representation of a Yarra River waterhole for the animals to drink from.

As children are playing:

  • respond to their interests and make use of learning opportunities as they arise
  • model the use of language to describe what they are seeing (reflections, shadows, names of animals and insects)
  • link their play to previous lived experiences
  • embed concepts of sustainability and science into the experience by linking children’s play to descriptions of the animals and their habitat
  • draw children’s attention to additional materials as needed.

Invite children to walk around the waterhole, looking at what you have all created:

  • encourage children to point out what animals are there and imagine where they might be going next.

Going further

This experience can be extended by:

  • encouraging children to participate in shared writing, fine arts, and performing arts (music dance)
  • experiences based on their favourite parts of the waterhole.

Additional and alternate resources

This experience could be adapted to link any lived experience, which is then built upon through a play experience afterwards.