8 tips for successful play

I was reading an article about ‘positive play’ and thought this was very interesting.

“Playing…is about creating the right environment to unlock your child’s creative potential” (How to have a happy toddler, Valinejad, 2007)

It got me thinking about what allows for ‘positive play’, so I have come up with these 8 points I believe can help allow for maximum learning and fun.

1 – Child-led – It may sound simple, but allowing your child the freedom to play in the way that she likes can make the world of difference to a ‘successful’ play session. Either allow your child to tell you how/what/where they would like to play (within the limits you set) or learn from the experiences you share. You know your child best, does she like playing outside? Getting messy? Going to groups?

2 – Less is more – In the immediate environment, there shouldn’t be too much choice. This can be overwhelming for a young child and she may not know what to play with. The best play is where your child (and you) get so immersed in play that you both lose track of time.

3 – The physical environment is very important. You want to create a calming atmosphere to enhance the learning that will inevitably be made through play. Make sure there is adequate lighting and the temperature is conducive for play. There also needs to be enough space for the type of play that will be occurring. E.g. making dens will require moving furniture or dancing may require an outdoor space.


4 – Meeting needs – This can sometimes slip our minds, but for a child to get the best out of a learning opportunity, their needs should be met prior to the play session. Think about it, if you’re hungry or tired, the last thing you want to be doing is attempting to complete a puzzle or learning a new language. Once your child is satisfied, their mind is opened up to absorbing all the new information.

5 – Distractions – This may be hard to avoid, but limiting distractions can help the play last longer and benefit the child’s learning. For example, if you’re playing in the living room – turn off the tv, shut the windows if there is noise outside etc.

6 – Make playtime fun – You may not be as enthused at your child’s choice of play or interests, but it’s important that she thinks you are. Find ways to make it fun for you too, she will react to your delight and you will both enjoy the interaction. If your child wants to get messy, find ways to make it less stressful, like playing outside where the mess won’t matter so much.

7 – Time – Try as much as possible to allow play to be endless. Your child won’t want to play forever, they will get bored, or hungry, or tired. It is important to set time limits, if necessary, before the play begins, e.g. We will play until it’s lunchtime, then we are going to see Nanna.

8 – Play and activities should be developmentally appropriate. If they are not, your child is likely to be disinterested or get frustrated when they don’t understand or cannot achieve something. However, it is still important to encourage your child to expand her knowledge and practice new skills.


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