While I do observations in the classrooms, I see how so many teachers are too worried about the hustle and bustle of the class and not being able to focus on the true meaning of what needs to be happening in the classroom, Play. They are too worried about getting specific things in on large group and small group, getting this lesson in and that lesson in that they don’t focus on how children really learn. They are too worried about getting them set in a seat to follow an inappropriate expectation of the children because of their age.
Play is a healthy, essential part of childhood. Infants exploring their world through their senses while adults foster their development and learning and toddlers engaging in pretend play when they imitate actions and events they have experienced with their families allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.
There are many definitions of play from play is activities that are freely chosen and directed by children and arise from intrinsic motivation to play being child-centered and engaging promotes learning. No matter what the definition is, a true early childhood program that is based on engaging children through play is where participants are allowed to participate in a balanced child initiated and adult-guided activities in an environment where play is encouraged and nurtured.
Playful social interactions begin at birth. As children grow into toddlers, pretend play develops. As children interact with each other, they learn concepts and skills in cooperating, listening to others, handling frustration, and emphasizing with others, all of which are important in the development of self-regulated and social negotiations. Sociodramatic play that entails verbal communication and interventions in small and large groups help children to put themselves in another’s place. This will foster empathy and consideration for others feelings.
There are several ways that you as the parent or teacher can help foster play. Here are five tips on how to help children become more intrigued in playing and help children benefit from play and being a child.
1. Let children choose
A child that has been given the opportunity to make choices are known to grow up and achieve great things as adults. Children need to be able to choose what they want to play with and for how long during free play. Children this age can not handle staying in one center for a long period of time unless they are very engaged and intrigued by the materials. Allow children to move freely through the centers limiting the number of children in one center. As children move then, others can move into that center. This is teaching children patients, and it is giving the ability to work with different materials.
2. Create an environment that fosters play
Make the room inviting and organized. If children know where things go and if items are age appropriate, then they will be more apt to play. Make sure that there are plenty of items for all children in the classroom and give them plenty of time to play on their own. When children are given very little time to play you are setting them up to get frustrated because they have to stop doing what they are engaged in. Give them plenty of time to play uninterrupted. This will help you as a teacher and help the children to become less frustrated during transitions.
3. Make time for unstructured play
Everyone’s schedules are busy, and children need time for play. Unstructured play is child-directed, no agenda, without planned activities or adult guidance. This is building critical skills that will help children later in life. Unstructured play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.
4. Engage at their level
Play as a teacher. Get into character and be a part of what they are playing. Ask open-ended questions to have them be able to explain their play. When you show a child how to be engaged, then you open so many doors for children to be able to learn.
5. Take it outside
Let nature be your guide. Having children outside in the fresh air and space where they can move freely will help children explore. You open up so many opportunities when you take them outside and allow them to play and explore.