Adaptations to Promote Free Play
There are several things teachers can do to integrate more free play into the day. It may just take a few adaptations to ensure that children can fully engage in free play.
- Room arrangement – Creating defined spaces for different kinds of play can help children focus and engage in sustained play experiences. For example, creating a construction area that is protected on multiple sides protects builders and their creations from accidental knock-downs. There should also be enough space for construction creations to grow as children’s play expands. There should be unique workspaces for different kinds of play. For example, children working on art projects should not be interrupted by children playing a lively board game at the same table.
- Naming learning centers- Teachers can open opportunities for play by simply changing what they call certain learning centers. For example, a center that is called housekeeping will likely remain a place where children pretend to play house. There is nothing wrong with this. There are, however, tons of pretend play scenarios that emerge when everyone thinks of this space as Pretend Play or Dramatic Play. Now stoves and refrigerators transform into airport ticket counters and veterinarian exam tables.
- Novel materials- Along with creating space for play, materials are also important. New and interesting materials can prompt new play experiences. They can also extend play; taking it to a new level of excitement and engagement. Create a system where toys and materials are rotated into use based on children’s interests. If you notice that a set of blocks is not being used, replace them with different materials and reintroduce them after a few weeks or months.
- Open-ended materials – It is also important to provide materials that are open-ended. This means that they can be used in multiple ways. The set of gears in the manipulative center are used in one way – as gears. A fabric scrap can be used as a baby blanket, a dancing scarf, a bandage, or a backdrop for a puppet show.
- Space and time for different types of play – Children begin their play journey as solitary explorers. As they develop new skills, play evolves into a cooperative venture. However, older children should still have chances to play alone if that is something they choose to do. Smaller spaces, fit for solitary play, can be created for children who need time away from the large group from time to time.
- Planning and review conversations – Rather than planning play experiences for children, teachers can help children by encouraging them to create a plan for their play. This is not required for every play period, but it can help some children focus their play. It can be as simple as asking a group of children what they want to accomplish together. Teachers can follow-up with a question such as, “Do you have everything you need?” or “Is there anything you need to make that happen?” Later in the day, the teacher can ask the children how everything worked out. It is completely acceptable for things to have not worked out. It is fine if plans changed mid-play. The goal of these conversations is simply to check in and encourage children to think about their play in new ways.
For the main article Increasing Opportunities for Free Play, CLICK HERE
For the article Play throughout the Day, CLICK HERE
For the article Incorporating Loose Parts, CLICK HERE
For the article Director’s Corner – Increasing Opportunities for Employees to Play, CLICK HERE