The International School of Amsterdam and the Value of Learning Playfully

Find out why ISA‘s Early Years education programme is so engaging and interactive, providing children with the best possible learning environments.

Early Years education at ISA begins in (rising) Nursery (2-3 years old) and continues through Pre-School (3-4 years old), Pre-Kindergarten (4-5 years old) and Kindergarten (5-6 years old) grade levels. ISA believes that these years of education are amongst the most crucial in a child’s overall development. 

ISA offers flexible programme options such as part-time education, rising Pre-School and rising Nursery. There is always an option that best fits the needs of your family!

The Early Years (EY) programme, and the approach to Early Years education, is engaging and interactive to provide the best possible learning environments for children to develop in the areas below-mentioned. With highly qualified and experienced teachers who engage in continuous professional development through our in-house centre for excellence and partnership with Harvard University, our Early Years team challenges students to learn literacy, science and mathematics through play. 

Learning Playfully

It is through play that EY students create learning opportunities. Play can take many forms, from free play amongst children themselves, to co-opted play between children and their teachers. In all its forms play allows young learners to naturally and actively construct meaning from their interactions with their peers and the world around them. These meanings are continuously built upon and revisited as experiences grow. ISA provides space for students to enjoy authentic, valuable and varied types of play, with a focus on building up positive and strong relationships with their teachers.


The EY centre on the campus is part of, but separate from, the rest of the school and it provides a safe, welcoming home for young learners in Nursery, Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten. The physical environment of the EY centre includes the classrooms, playgrounds, EY kitchen, library, gym, music room and art atelier. Each of these spaces is purpose-built, and they have been thoughtfully designed to encourage play and build relationships in a safe and secure way.


Research has shown that the self-regulation and language skills that are learned, both socially and emotionally, through relationship building in early years are the most important predictors of children’s future academic success and personal wellbeing. Maintaining positive relationships is a fundamental part of the EY programme, for both students and staff. School leaders aim to engage and empower EY teachers, and in so doing improve the learning experience of their young learners.

Student Agency

ISA believes that it is important that EY learners feel a sense of ownership over their own learning. By promoting student agency at a young age, early learners are encouraged to become more at ease with being independent, comfortable at negotiating and compromising together in play, and confident in asserting themselves.

Inquiry Through Play

By focusing on these areas ISA ensures that the EY programme is wholly child-centred, and at all times driven by the needs of young students.

“Skill development through play From birth, children are ‘hands-on’ natural inquirers and learn through playful interactions with people and their environment. Play is an essential aspect of a child’s healthy development. Through play-based learning, children develop and nurture fundamental knowledge and skills. Learning in the Primary Years Programme (PYP) is based on ‘approaches to learning’ skills (ATLs). These skills aim to support children of all ages to become learners who know how to ask good questions, set effective goals and pursue their aspirations with the determination to achieve them. The infographic below, represents how ATLs can be developed through play.”

Written by

International School of Amsterdam

International School of Amsterdam

The International School of Amsterdam is a globally-recognised leader in education for international understanding. Founded in 1964, ISA was the first school in the world to offer all core IB programmes. Located in the green city of Amstelveen, ISA offers state-of-the-art facilities to students between the ages of 2 to 18, representing over 60 nationalities.

Find a school