Engaging Your Child Through Play

Play-based learning is described in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) as ‘a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they actively engage with people, objects and representations’. But what is play? Play is hard to define as there are a number of theories and types of play.

Children learn best through experiences that are fun and interesting to them. Play is an important and useful tool to help your child engage in purposeful and meaningful activities and to build relationships with others.

Young children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. The intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing have been well documented. Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behaviour, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning. 

Let’s look at some ways to encourage your child to play with you or other people at home:

  • Get down to your child’s eye level when you play together.
  • Enter into your child’s play by following what they are interested in playing with.
  • Imitate your child’s actions, facial expressions or sounds they make. Make comments on what your child is saying or doing.
  • Look at how your child plays with their toys and copy what they are doing.
  • As your child realises you are willing to do what they’re interested in, they will begin to let you join them in play. 
  • Be ‘playfully obstructive’ by either making a mistake or pretending that you don’t know what they want.
  • Watch for signs that your child may be trying to tell you what they want. It could be a quick look at you or the toy, touching, pointing or making a sound. 
  • Respond to your child in
    a way that opens and encourages another opportunity for them to respond back to you again.
  • ‘Affect’ is how we express our emotions through tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions.
  • Use pauses to build anticipation. Pausing what you are doing together creates opportunities for your child to anticipate the game. 

Some activities to try:

  • Peek-a-boo games
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Sand play
  • Water games
  • Play-doh or goop
  • Parachute games
  • Jack-in-the-box
  • Cause-and-effect toys
  • Musical instruments
  • Slides, see-saws and swings




Article sources: Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), Bodrova & Leong, Ahrens, G., Greenspan, S. I. & Wieder, S., Solomon, R., Weitzman, E & Pepper, Jan.

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