Child-led play is extremely beneficial. It is the way for them to discover what they love, who they are and make sense of the world around them. Our role in child-led play is to FOLLOW THEIR LEAD sometimes that means letting them lead ENTIRELY. We can also support them when needed, keep them safe, engage in their play.
My favorite materials to include in their play area to encourage child-led play are open-ended materials that can be manipulated in MANY ways.
For example, if you have a toy crane and a bulldozer… your child will likely play construction right? But if you have a pile of sand, a pile of water and empty bowls… you can have a castle with a moat, a restaurant… maybe you have dinosaurs nearby they can make it a jurassic park. If that toy crane is nearby… they can do SO much with it.
There’s a time and a place for more specific activities. But even when I am concentrating on a “theme“ in my playroom, I do not decide how they are played with. If a construction station turns into a vet. THAT’S AWESOME. Switching out the toys doesn’t mean they have to follow your vision for the room. It’s just changing the environment so they have new opportunities to learn, explore, develop and imagine.
I ALWAYS select open-ended toys to add to the shelves to enhance the child-led play and exploration.
Let me give some examples of some strong open-ended toys
Neutral Play Furniture (table, chairs, sink, climber)
Here are some tips when you try out child-led play
Lakeshore Learning See-Inside Magnet Blocks
Shop them here.
These are some amazing open ended toys. In a matter of 20 minutes, Charlie had made a tower, an airplane, a couple of houses, a snake and a castle (this is the only one I supported him with). It doesn’t really matter what the product is… and if it doesn’t look like an airplane, but it is one… so be it. This is about the process. He led the play. He was curious. He tried/failed, started over. Child-led learning allows them to discover their interests, develop persistence, engineer and implement a plan, review that plan and problem solve. It really is incredible.
Halfway through this play, Charlie wanted to take pictures with my camera. So I was instructed to build, while he took my Nikon D7100 in manual and snapped some shots. Not too shabby.
shop this set here. (affiliate link)
Lauren Pace, MS | Parenting Coach | Child Behavior Coach | Logan, Utah | WA | Online