Child-led Play

One of the behavioural theories that I strongly believe in is child-led play. Child-led play is exactly how it sounds. The parent is actively involved in the child’s play, BUT the child leads all the play. It’s important that the parent merely goes along, without making suggestions and without interrupting. It sounds so easy, but… it really isn’t! As parents, we want to use every moment as a teaching moment and we want to step in and show them how to do it better. Or point out what is not going to work. Maybe we keep checking the phone by our side; or popping out to do chores or to make a quick coffee.

The benefits of uninterrupted, completely child-led play are many. Firstly, child-led play builds your child’s confidence, it teaches them how to problem solve, it teaches them that they can master skills. Secondly, child-led play teaches your child how to express their emotions, builds resilience and encourages them to learn patience. Thirdly, but most importantly, it helps build your relationship with your child, it shows them that they are important and helps them explore the world in a safe environment.

Research has shown that children who have parents who regularly engage in child-led play suffer less mental health difficulties including anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and even sleep problems. The more time you spend playing with your child, the more responsive you will become to them and their cues. As a result, you will learn what makes them tick, their strengths and their struggles and what them so unique and special. It’s important to never underestimate the impact you are having on your children when you simply sit and play.