As a childminder I comply with the Early Years Foundation Stage (2017) which talks in requirement 1.8 about the importance of ‘planned purposeful play’ and states that providers need to find a balance of adult-led, adult guided and child initiated play.
In my setting I use different types of play through the week depending on what we are doing with the children, including –
- Daily routines – children make and eat food, go out and visit to toddler groups or the park, do school runs to collect the older children… etc as well as planned play sessions such as reading, music and movement and phonics for pre-schoolers.
- Independent, child-directed play – a time for letting the child play in a safe environment with the practitioner observing, stepping in if there is a problem and seizing the ‘teachable moment’ – but only if appropriate. We need to establish a daily routine with plenty of free play opportunities and teach children if they are not sure how to play independently.
- Continuous provision planning – the practitioner sets up invitations to play and provocations to excite and interest the children, capture their curiosity and help develop new skills. For example, you might have a fiddly fingers invitation to play set up, some small boxes with little people to encourage imaginative play, a mark making area to develop a child’s interest in chalk or paints and some peg jigsaws on the table to follow up a child’s interest from the previous day.
If you want to use this type of planning you will find lots of inspiration on Facebook groups and Pinterest - but remember to start with the children's current interests and learning styles.
- Individual / next steps planning – these are activities which support children to learn something new or practice something they have recently been observed doing or saying. Next steps plans can be short term (on the spot or following up yesterday’s observations) or longer term (establishing toileting or developing an observed schema).
- On the spot play – practitioners play alongside children, joining in with their games and chatting to them about what they are doing - sustained shared thinking conversations. Play is then extended through these adult – child interactions. On the spot play cannot be planned in advance and is usually written up as brief notes after the event. It is a very powerful way of interacting with children.
- Themes / topics – the practitioner wants to teach the children something new such as activities linked to the new season or a special time of year. For example, it is Christmas coming up so the practitioner puts together an interest box with some tree decorations, the Christmas story book, an invitation to make cards and some Christmas pictures. The children talk about Christmas at home and want to make gifts or wrapping paper and the planning goes off in a child-initiated direction with the practitioner supporting and guiding play, providing resources, keeping children safe etc.
All these types of play are fine – if you want to include them in your days – and it’s fine if you don’t! Ofsted will not grade you on the type of planning you use – Ofsted are looking at how your planning IMPACTS on outcomes for the children… how your planning supports children’s learning and development… how your planning makes a difference.
I hope this helps clarify some of the ways you can play with children...