"We would never go back" Stories of early years teachers transitioning to play-based learning environments
International and national interest has been growing around the use of play-based learning approaches in the early years of primary school. This qualitative study explored the journeys of five early years teachers in New Zealand, who were transitioning to using play-based learning approaches in their classrooms. Semi-structured interviews and observations of teacher interactions were used to explore the reasons teachers were moving away from traditional teaching practices, the pathways they were taking, and the changes they had made in both their practices and their beliefs about themselves as teachers. Findings indicated that teachers in this study adopted play-based learning approaches because they were more appropriate for their students’ learning and development. They had initiated the move to play-based learning themselves, often with the support of a fellow teacher. School leaders and other colleagues were both understanding of, and resistant to, the changes the teachers were making. Teachers had adapted the physical environment of their classroom to accommodate play-based practices. More significantly, however, they had transformed the way they perceived themselves and their role in the classroom. This grassroots movement towards implementing play-based learning approaches in schools has implications for curriculum, assessment, resourcing, and preschool primary transitions.