This paper reports a finding that emerged from a wider study into children’s engagement with literacy provision in child-initiated play. In this observation-based study 25 of the 42 children involved were observed engaging a particular form of participation, a learning modality that aligns with Rogoff’s et al.’s (2003) description of first-hand learning through Intent Participation. Based on these findings, the paper argues that, alongside other more established early years pedagogical practices, an understanding of this learning modality may need to be part of early years practitioners’ pedagogical repertoire. Recognition of this learning modality is, it is argued, particularly significant in two related contemporary contexts. Firstly, the ameliorating effect of early childhood education for children growing up in poverty, and, secondly, the strong drive to encourage language-based pedagogy to develop children’s spoken language and mediate their early learning.