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Child Led Play & learning - By Tegan Frost

Child Led Play & learning - By Tegan Frost

As parents we strive for a number of things. Our love for our children is so HUGE and such a great beauty that we simply want the best for them in every way possible. So when it comes to learning we naturally want nothing more than to see them strive and grow to discover that their own potential is limitless. Personally, I know that I have always adored that spark of love for learning, but as all children are so vastly different, so is the way in which they learn best as well as when they are ready to begin learning. Open ended play has become greatly popular amongst families and it is so easy to be drawn to the beautiful resources that you can now readily find and use to interact and learn with our little ones. So what makes it so beautiful and inviting?
One of the biggest benefits of open ended play is that our children can actually direct the way they use resources, as well as build self confidence in the way that they interact and make decisions. A child is more likely to learn something that they have chosen to pursue themselves over something that is perhaps not enjoyable to them or they feel is forced.
Have you ever taken your child on a walk and allowed them to lead, to take you where they think you should go? Obviously we often have days or instances where that is simply not going to happen and time doesn’t allow, but if it does, it can be a journey that shows you the world through your child’s eyes. The things they stop and engage with, the route they take, learning through touch, smell, questioning. Well the same thing can be seen through play. The way in which they choose to explore their own resources at home can tell us so much! From the types of things that interest them, down to the way in which they find learning easiest or most enjoyable.
Child led play still allows us as parents to be involved in the opportunity for learning, but the beauty of it is that the child will choose how they wish to interpret their own play, to decide what they can imagine or how they can use something. It allows them to create worlds of their own and perhaps even teach the parent a thing or two about different ways to create. Placing toys or resources at a level that they can access also means that they can add an element of responsibility into their play. They become confident creating their own opportunities and using resources which suit their style of play at any given time, choosing them for use as they wish and perhaps even packing them away again as they play. Placing them at a visual level also means that they engage more readily and are noticing what is on offer. This can not only make learning more personal but also takes away a sense of pressure to learn. It becomes natural and fun instead! Resources that could be used for colour coding, counting, or lining up for instance may be used that way one day and the next they are used for stacking, or role play. The opportunities become endless.
Invitations to play, sensory play, creative play. It certainly doesn’t mean that we need to step back and exclude ourselves from their interactions completely, but perhaps by offering a child something that we have set up, or an example of a way they can use it can in turn enrich their sense of independence. They are encouraged to get creative and try their own way. If it doesn’t work, they can use this as a learning point and in turn build resilience as they overcome obstacles through their play. What worked and what didn’t? Why didn’t it work and how can I change this to make it work? Sometimes we as parents will naturally and almost instinctively provide a fix to any challenges that arise, because that is our job right? However, under circumstances where a child is in charge of their own play they often tend to be immersed in what they are doing and there is this underlying confidence and curiosity involved. They will try and try again, because it is a part of THEIR experience.
One of the most amazing things about this form of play is that it actually opens us up to conversation and discussion with our children, allowing us to nurture their learning and growth. It can be as simple as asking a child what they are working on or what they think will happen when they use something in a particular way. The most spectacular thing that children make us realise sometimes, is that it is not necessarily WHEN they will learn something but rather HOW they are currently learning it. Children are always learning! Be it through example , through conversation, through exploring their surroundings in nature and most importantly, as they play!
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn”
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