How do we support Child Directed Play in the Co-op Classroom?

A big part of our daily routine in the co-op classroom is child directed playtime. Stanley Greenspan, author and researcher, has said that "floor time" or "child directed play is "creating an opportunity fo the child to bring you into his or her world." When adults spend just short periods of time engaged in play with children we enhance our relationships with them. Many adults do not know HOW to play with children.  They may feel embarrassed at doing childish things, feel thay have to supervise play, give too much structure or feel the need to get things done "right" and "act like a teacher" in order for the child to learn.

The Elements of Floor Time or Child Directed Play in the Classroom:

Time: During free play there is plenty of time to commit to 10 minutes devoted solely to play with a child.

Activity: Try to choose an area where there are toys that foster open-ended play such as with blocks and building toys, playdough, dramatic play, baby dolls, cars and trucks.

Observe:  What is the child doing? What is her play looking like? How might you approach him?

Follow:  Follow the child's lead. Let the child do the leading and deciding.

Imitate: Physically imitate or mirror what the child is doing in a way that indicates that you are interested in playing with him.

Describe: Describe what she is doing. "You're building a tower." Descriptive comments take the place of questions and commands and give you something to say. Overall adults should not do a lot of talking.

Body Language: Show with physical cues that you are interested in what she is doing: sit near her, look where he looks, make eye contact, smile.

Pace: Slow down! Follow the child's pace. Don't hurry him along. Though it may seem boring or slow to adults, children learn through repetition.

Ending the play: Give some notice that you're almost finished. Let the child know that you are going to move on to something else. 

To explore this concept in more depth:  Floor Time by Stanley Greenspan (video and workbook)

                                                               The Essential Partnership by Stanley Greenspan