This paper is concerned specifically with the pedagogies applied in supporting learning through children‟s play, and it is framed outside mainstream discourses on the nature of play. The development of the paper also represents one stage in a continuing effort to develop a better understanding of sustained shared thinking in early childhood education. The paper also focuses on the educational potential of shared playful activities. However, given the overwhelming consensus regarding the importance of play in early childhood development, even a diehard educational pragmatist must begin by addressing subjects that are most commonly considered by psychologists. The paper begins with an account of „sustained shared thinking‟, a pedagogical concept that was first identified in a mixed method, but essentially educational effectiveness study. Then a consideration of the nature and processes of „learning‟ and „development‟ is offered. It is argued that popular accounts of a fundamental difference in the perspectives of Piaget and Vygotsky have distracted educational attention from the most important legacy that they have left to early childhood education; the notion of „emergent development‟. Pedagogic progression in the early years is then identified as an educational response to, and an engagement with, the most commonly observed, evidence based developmental trajectories of young children as they learn through play.