There are a number of things to consider when entering into play with children. It is important to honor children’s play by working yourself into their story line, rather than taking over and changing their play.
Even when you are attempting to redirect children to a more productive kind of play, attempt to notice what the children find motivating and engaging about the play scenario and make adaptations to the materials if possible. Imagine children pretending to have a snowball battle, but they are using hard plastic materials. Rather than stopping their play altogether, recognize the joy and benefits of their play and encourage them to think of materials they could use that will keep everyone safe, such as pompoms, cotton balls, or balls of scrap paper.
In order to do this, you will need to observe children before entering into their play – as long as the scenario is safe. If there is a dangerous situation, you will need to address it immediately.
Here are a few other practices to consider when entering into different kinds of play scenarios with children:
Wait for an invitation. It is quite common for children to invite adults into their play by assigning them a role. You could sit down near the dramatic play center and ask, “Is it okay with you if I hang out here for a few minutes?” and see what happens next.
Ask for permission. From time to time, you may want to join children in play because you see an opportunity to extend their learning or introduce something new. In these instances, rather than stopping the play to teach the lesson, ask if you can join the children and then work your idea into the children’s play.
Comment on what you witness. Rather than stopping children’s play to ask unrelated questions, make comments about what you see children doing. You could say something like, “I see that you are using the back of the shovel to pack the sand tightly into the cup. That’s a great way to use that tool. I wonder which tool I could use?”
Ask questions. Choose your questions and timing wisely. Refrain from peppering the children with a ton of questions. Do not allow your questions to interrupt the flow of the play. Open-ended questions and “I wonder…” questions can help you guide children to make new discoveries in their play, without doing the work for them.
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For the main article Engaging in Play with Children, CLICK HERE
For the article Why Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE
For the article When to NOT Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE
For the article Director’s Corner: Encouraging Teachers to Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE