Children are play experts.
They inherently know what they want and what they need for their development and they learn best when they’re focused and engaged in play they initiate.
As an educator or parent, have you ever noticed that you tend to jump in and try to “help” children? If you can allow them to come up with solutions for themselves you are supporting them to empower themselves and this is going to have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.
Child led play also gives your children ownership of their play and experiences. This is extremely important as it helps with the development of their sense of identity and self-esteem. It develops their belief in themselves as thinkers and learners.
As you can see, it's a skill and a tool that they will have for the rest of their lives, which will benefit them far greater in many areas of their life.
Intentional teaching is vitally important to early education, there’s no doubt about it but as educators we are wise to facilitate both our own imposed learning methodologies as well as let children lead the way.
For example, if you’re out in the yard and you see a child trying to do a task such as tie a knot and you can see they’re struggling your automatic reaction might be to jump in and help them – don’t do this. Let them struggle and if they come to you for help then you work with them to facilitate them finding their own solution. This is both intentional teaching and child led play at work.
There’s many benefits to child led play such as they learn to problem solve and take healthy risks, they develop innovative thinking, and they learn to negotiate and problem solve with their peers.
Your ability to encourage this in them rather than wanting to fix or solve problems will be transformational for them. Avoid the lawnmower parenting or educating that I’ve spoken about previously.
It simply starts with you observing, watching, and listening and then following their lead. Trust that they know the answers for themselves – because they do.
Over to you – what are some creative ways you’ve come up with to facilitate child led play?