Child-led play: why it’s good for babies and children
Child-led play means following your child’s lead in play. It means watching your child and responding to what she says or does to keep her attention focused a little bit longer.
Following your child’s lead is good because your child learns best when he’s interested in an activity. When you follow your child’s lead in play, you can take advantage of things that interest him to help him learn something new through play.
Also, when your child leads, she builds communication skills and learns how she can influence things around her.
What you need for child-led play
You don’t need any equipment for child-led play.
All you do is follow whatever your child is interested in at the time. This might be a toy or something in the environment, like a bird or a fire truck. It might even be you, and the funny faces and sounds you’re making together.
How to follow your child’s lead in play
- Start by noticing what your child is interested in. It could be something he’s playing with, like a ball, or something he’s doing, like jumping through puddles.
- Ask your child if you can join in.
- Go along with what your child is doing. If she rolls a ball to you, you might roll it back. Stay focused on the activity. Avoid distracting your child or changing the way the activity is happening.
- Ask questions or comment on what you’re both doing – for example, ‘That was a big roll – I nearly missed it!’ Give your child time to respond.
- If your child changes to something new, let him be the leader. For example, if he stops rolling the ball and starts playing with blocks, move to the blocks with him.
Adapting child-led play for babies and younger children
Even babies can lead play. You can follow your baby’s eye direction to see what she’s interested in.
For example, ‘Is that Auntie there on the sofa? What’s she doing? Is she waving at you?’ If your baby responds with gurgles or babble, keep talking as though you’re having a conversation.
Or if you see your baby looking at a toy, like a brightly coloured rattle, move it closer to him, and let him try to hold it or shake it.