This sounds like a tricky question, so we will show you the difference between leading and supporting your child in play, and then you can answer the question!
Leading play sounds like something that is good and that we should be doing as child care providers, teachers, parents, and guardians, but when we dive further into it, you will see, what it really is and what effects it has on your child.
Let's first define "leading play". Leading play means that you are directing the playtime. You are choosing the toys, you are choosing how the toys will be played, and you are dictating the outcomes. Leading play leaves no room for your child to explore, no room for them to use their creativity, and no room for them to learn and grow.
The effects of the adult leading play, are simple: less growth of your child and simply put, no fun for your child. Studies have shown that children that do not have the opportunity to lead in their play have a harder time playing independently and have a more difficult time regulating their emotions.
Now that we have a foundation of what "leading play" looks like, now let's discover what "supporting play" is all about!
What is supporting play? Sit down on the floor. Yep, you heard that right! Sit down on the floor and play with them. Engage in their playing. Eat the pretend egg and drink the imaginary tea. Ask them questions, "Hmmm, what else are we going to have at your tea party today?" Look them in the eyes, smile, laugh, have fun. This builds connection. Connection is key in supporting play for your child. Studies have shown, time and time again, how nurturing connection is directly correlated to the ability of a child to grow and develop in a healthy way.
Focus on the process, not the outcomes/goals of play. Be in the moment, and just enjoy the time with your child, or if they are playing independently, observe and be mindful of what their interests are. Elaborating on their interests and providing the tools and supplies necessary to build on their interests is key. If your child is interested in building things, then provide plenty of materials for them to explore that interest, such as Pop Suckers Building Toys! If they are interested in drawing, coloring, all things art, then allow them color their own Personalized Coloring Posters! If they love sensory poppers, they would absolutely love these 2-in-1 Math Poppers!
Which would you rather?
Which would you rather: lead in your child's play or support in their play? I am guessing you said, "support in their play"? Yes! Me too! As a mom of 4, I have seen first hand how both of these scenarios play out. Yes, I have made mistakes. Yes, I am guilty of trying to lead in their play. Yes, I am guilty of not asking them enough questions. But, that is okay. We continue to allow ourselves grace, when things don't work out quite as planned, and pick up where we left off the next day, and try something different.
I have seen the impact of supporting play in our homeschool setting, at Sunday School where I have taught for over 10 years, and at our co-op where I have taught numerous grades from preschool all the way up to high school. Supporting play is essential in supporting your young learner. We wish you blessings on supporting play and can't wait to share with you more ways to encourage learning through play!
P.S. Feel free to leave a comment below and share with us your favorite way to support your child's play!