Creating a balance between adult directed play and child directed play.

Creating a balance between adult directed play and child directed play.

Children depend on adults to ensure that they are able to play. Adults have the responsibility to be able to know how to ensure they are skilled at implementing a playful learning pedagogy.

We encourage adults to play an active and supporting role in children’s play activities.

Role of the adult in playful learning

In adult directed play, adults have an active role and facilitate the play.  Games or activities set by a parent, teacher or caregiver are examples of adult directed play. Adults help provide structure to a game or activity by defining a clear set of rules from the outset. Adults provide specific toys or games for children to play with to achieve a specific outcome. Adult directed play introduces ‘new’ learning concepts or targets specific developmental skill/learning areas in children e.g. hand-eye coordination or fine motor skills.

In order to facilitate playful learning, the adult has to:

  • Create a safe, organised and adaptable environment.
  • Manage the routine of the session to make sure that children have time to follow the activities set out for them.
  • Provide adequate and accessible play materials and toys as well as allowing for children to explore the play materials, taking care of the toys and packing up the toys.
  • Observe and document children’s learning and use this information to plan what sort of opportunities and experiences to offer children next to further enhance their development.
  • Design a programme that includes time for child-initiated as well as adult-directed playful learning
  • Model acceptable behaviour, language and social skills to children.
  • Scaffold children’s learning by guiding and showing children the next step.
  • Empower children through allowing decision making.
  • Encourage and praise children.
  • Allow time for children to explore, make mistakes and to try again.
  • Engage in rich conversations with children during play.

Child directed play

It is also important for adults to create a balance between adult directed play and child directed play to help children learn and develop better. Child directed play is when a child decides, directs and leads the play in any way the child wishes, providing it is harmless. The role of the adult is to allow for the play to happen, to provide resources, the time and the space for the play to take place.

Adults working with children need to allow for child directed play and should remind themselves that child directed play means:

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