In early childhood education children increasingly have access to digital technologies to play on and with. Research often centers on using traditional play theories to understand what is occurring, but some theorists are now using a social-cultural lens to explore digital play in a way that is meaningful for the children and educators involved. In this paper we present a new conceptual framework to understand how children learn to use technologies through play. The framework is called the Digital Play Framework and is informed by the socio-cultural concept of tool mediation (1997) and Hutt’s (1966) ideas about explorative and ludic play. The framework is pedagogically useful because it explains the relationship between technology-as-tool and children’s play-based behaviours. It is important to understand this relationship in early childhood because play is the basis for curriculum provision. With play as the basis for curriculum provision, educators need a way to assess and plan for children’s digital activities. In this paper we illustrate the potential of the Digital Play Framework for achieving this goal.
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