Pupils are grasping concepts more quickly and settling more quickly into school since North Ayrshire set up a primary 1 play initiative, teachers report.
Immature children are more engaged and cope better in class. The pace of learning is faster because they are learning through play and grasping ideas better, Lesley Owens, the council's former head of educational services, told the conference.
Since June last year, all P1 teachers have received in-service training on play. Each teacher was asked to change just one thing in their classroom to build on the good practice in nursery and make learning more fun.
Some teachers did away with formal seating for all the children. When the class came together, the children would sit on the floor. Play activities were no longer treated as a reward but as part of the class routine. Others incorporated snack time into the classroom routine instead of making it part of playtime.
"We tried to ensure that play fell into the children's programme every day - not as an add-on," Ms Owens said.
She attributed the early success to giving children more personal responsibility and empowering them to take more control over their own learning.
Ms Owens reported: "The initial indications are that children are learning more effectively in P1 and more children are learning at level A in P2."
Teachers found they spent less time marking but more time planning.
A successful measure to make the nursery to school transition work better had been to invite nursery staff to help in the P1 classroom for the first few days to support the children.
"The P1 started on a Wednesday but the nursery classes, schools and centres did not start until the following Monday," Ms Owens said. Nursery staff felt they wanted to assist in this transition and the impact had been "really considerable".