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This chapter investigates the connections between play and the spiritual dimension. Curriculum and policy documents in early childhood education frequently make reference to play and the ‘whole child’ and holistic approaches which include the spiritual and moral dimension. Such comments reflect both historical influences and philosophical perspectives in early childhood education and current understandings of the importance of play for learning; for physical, social and emotional well-being; and for authentic experience in relationship with others. These perspectives on children’s play help to position play as complex and fundamental to the child’s emerging sense of self and connectedness. An examination of the literature on the nature of spiritual and sacred encounters during early childhood provides further insight to the multifaceted and complex phenomenon of children’s play by drawing attention to aspects of play which may be overlooked. We include vignettes of children’s play to illustrate the nature of play and the spiritual dimension, and these examples position children as experts of play and the sacred. The child’s spiritual encounters in play are subsequently juxtaposed with the neo-liberalist economic agenda that currently prevails in Australian political discourse. We argue that this discourse threatens aspects of early childhood education that may be the most important for long-term individual and community well-being. We propose that the processes and dispositions evident in play and the sacred are fundamental to human flourishing and are fertile ground for generating community and connectedness.


School of Education

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Book Chapter

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