I have been teaching kids for almost a decade and just a few years back I transferred to a traditional school. It was a total adjustment since I was coming from an all-progressive play school. I started to teach higher grade levels (which by the way was totally new to me and boy, did I enjoy it) then eventually was transferred back to teaching preschool-age boys. We had a very structured schedule. We were expected to accomplish so many tasks that focus more on academics.
A few weeks in, I noticed that my boys were starting to feel sluggish and restless inside the classroom. I started to think there must be something wrong. So I made slight adjustments to our daily schedule.
Instead of just implementing adult-led activities (which is play primarily directed by adults), I started to encourage Child-led play more. This is the kind of play that evolves when children choose what to play and make up their own rules on how to play. Tons of research could prove how critical this particular type of play for all children’s learning and well being. After a while, I saw that there were huge differences in terms of attitude, behavior and mastery of the lessons.
I noticed that encouraging Child-Led Play helps build a sense of self-direction and self-confidence in your child. It fosters language and social development for the child. Child-led Play also gives you the opportunity to strengthen your bond with your child while experiencing the joy of self- discovery, the thrill of being able to pursue its own creative ideas without the fear of failure.
So here are 4 things to remember when promoting more Child-Led Play. (Easy Tip: It spells out the word PLAY)
PERMISSION – Allow your children to have some downtime. Allow them to play on their own without any adults directing or telling them what to do. Remember that there is no one right way to play with a toy.
LET LOOSE – Relax and enjoy the play. Look for a good time to join your child in play. Watch and take down notes on what your child enjoys playing with, if necessary you too can get down on the floor together and imitate your child’s activities. It is alright to describe your child’s play like a sports announcer (ex. There goes the train up the hill!) but remember to avoid quizzing and asking questions (ex. Where is the Blue car?)
A SAFE SPACE – Kids need a place to freely play and get really messy. You can use an old sheet or a towel to help create a safe space or better yet find materials that are easy to clean.
YOU – Play comes natural for children. But one of the best ways to support play is to simply observe: watch and listen. When invited to join, you can play along but do remember to stop yourself from giving any directions. Instead wait for your child’s cue and follow through.
There is nothing more positive for a child’s imagination than an interested parent, who shows curiosity about his child’s creations. So set aside time to follow our children’s lead in play and actually pay attention to where they’re taking us because the journey is always well worth the time.
Teacher Raissa is a teacher by day and Crayola addict 24/7! She absolutely adores children and has been working (and playing!) with them for the last 10 years. She teaches math, is a homeroom adviser to adorable Preschoolers, and believes in learning through play. Get in touch with Teacher Raissa through ogalalaexpert [at] gmail.com.