Play activities are intrinsically motivating for children, who remain happily oblivious to the wealth of developmental benefits that play provides. Parents and teachers demonstrate an awareness of the importance of play in children’s development by providing opportunities, encouragement and new perspectives. Parents and teachers assume distinctive roles in supporting children’s play in the home and school settings.
Teachers Discourage Gender Stereotypical Play
Preschool and kindergarten children find that learning centers are irresistible hubs of play activity. However, learning centers can also serve as hubs of gender stereotypical play without resourceful teacher intervention. For example, it’s not unusual to observe girls ignoring block areas while boys snub dramatic play centers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends giving a dramatic play center instant boy appeal by requesting that adult males play in the center, exhibit pictures of males caring for infants and children, and include men’s clothing and props. Similarly, increase a block area’s girl appeal by requesting that adult females play in the area, exhibit pictures of females employed as mechanics or construction workers and include dolls and small stuffed animals in the block area.
Teachers Enhance Dramatic Play
Teachers provide support and encouragement to enhance children’s dramatic play. For example, teachers recognize that long play periods boost the benefits of play, so teachers incorporate extended play periods into the curriculum to encourage dramatic play. Teachers also encourage dramatic play by providing a combination of structured, realistic props, as well as more loosely defined play items. Teachers can support dramatic play with praise, themes and roles, or through more indirect strategies such as inviting guest speakers, organizing field trips and monitoring children’s specific areas of interests.
Parents Create Play From Routine Activities
Scholastic.com suggests that parents take advantage of the mundane to create novel play opportunities. For example, create a new play opportunity by taking the family pet to the veterinarian. Say, “Dr. Martin is an animal doctor, or veterinarian. First, she listens to Samson’s heart, and then she will check his eyes, ears and teeth.” Read a book about veterinarians and ask your child what kind of animals she might see. These experiences nurture problem-solving skills and permit your child to explore new roles.
Parents Permit Children to Guide Play
Parents enrich their child’s play activities when they provide opportunities to explore new roles, participate in play activities, and designate ample time to carry out play agendas. However, recognize when to take a step back to encourage your child to direct the play activity. Applaud your child’s plan for executing the activity. Ask questions that foster creative thinking and praise your child’s play outcomes.