BACKGROUND : This article is based on a study that aimed at finding out how pre-primary teachers integrate directed play into literacy teaching and learning. Play is a platform through which young children acquire language. AIM : This study uses an action research approach to understand how guided play benefits incidental reading and expands vocabulary growth in a Chinese Grade K classroom. METHOD : Data collection involved classroom observations, document analysis, informal and focus group discussions. RESULTS : The results revealed the key benefits of play-based learning for sight word or incidental reading and vocabulary development. These are: (1) teacher oral and written language learning, (2) learners’ classroom engagement is promoted, (3) learners were actively engaged in learning of orthographic features of words, (4) learners practised recognising the visual or grapho-phonemic structure of words, (5) teacher paced teaching and (6) teacher assesses miscues and (7) keep record of word recognition skills. CONCLUSION : In the light of the evidence, it is recommended that the English Second Language (ESL) curriculum for pre-service teachers integrate curricular objectives that promote practising playful learning strategies to prepare teachers for practice.