Adult-led versus child initiated play- Let’s revisit the difference ?

With the shifts in play trends, we have seen less time and opportunity for child-led play. While balancing screen-time and play, it also appears that adult-led play or structured play activities tend to occupy more children’s free time.

In adult-led play, activities often have a specific goal, outcome or set of rules associated with it. These activities are often organized or led by an adult who may direct how, when and what the child engages in.

There certainly are benefits to engaging in structured play activities, however this should be complemented with time and play opportunities for children to engage in child initiated play as well.

During child initiated play the activities and games are child-directed, intrinsically motivated, spontaneous, not limited by a certain set of rules and is not necessarily reality-bound. They can create, direct and adapt play scripts and the surrounding play context as they engage in their play adventure.

Child initiated play provides children with opportunities to develop important skills including:

  • Executive functioning (working memory, flexible thinking and learning to self-regulate)
  • Creative thinking and problem solving
  • Perspective taking
  • Socio-emotional development
  • Empathy
  • Self-expression

and contributes to health and well-being through being physically active to name a few of its benefits.

This does not mean that child initiated play requires caregivers to relinquish complete control over a home context. This does however, require us as adults to provide children with the opportunity, in terms of space and time, to engage in true child-lead play.

PlayMore looks forward to launching our Play Coaching online talks over June/July with tips and strategies to create more opportunities for child-led play activities in the home and out and about!


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