In this article the author reports on a research study that explores the views of Samoan and Tongan student teachers perceptions of the term ‘play’. The research undertaken with the students draws attention to how the students’ perceptions of play have been influenced. As developing early childhood teachers, what they know and understand of play will influence the ways in which they provide play experiences for young children in their care. The participants were interviewed before and after undertaking a course about the value of play in the learning and teaching of young children. Significant changes were noted in the students’ understanding of the term play. The findings identified several critical factors: (a) the influence of parental attitudes towards play, (b) how student teachers initially viewed play, and (c) the student teachers perceptions as developing early childhood teachers of play. Using critical reflection in conjunction with developing their theoretical knowledge and understanding of play enabled the student teachers to better understand theories of play and become advocates of play for young children in an early childhood education setting.

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