Should educators be involved in children’s play?

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Should educators be involved in children’s play?

EYLF and MTOP make it clear educators should be involved in children’s play – for example, being responsive allows educators to “enter children’s play .. stimulate their thinking and enrich their learning and “…educators take on many roles in play with children and use a range of strategies to support learning” p 15/p14.
A recent study looked at five different ways Australian educators are involved in play. Sometimes it’s about where educators are in relation to children, and sometimes it’s about educators’ actions:

  1. Educator positioned close to (eg sitting near) children
    eg during story time educator helps children to re-create story of Goldilocks and the three bears by prompting role play.
  2. Educator involved in play but seeks different outcomes to children
    eg children seated around a tub of water pretending to be pirates. There is a boat, some containers and a Lego pirate. The teacher introduces a block of ice and asks how the ice could be melted. Sam says the pirate’s hat is too big. The teacher smiles and returns to the problem of the melting ice. She is trying to teach scientific ideas – to “smuggle content knowledge into the play.” Learning from this rich, imaginary situation with the pirate was completely ignored by the teacher.
  3. Educator supervises children’s play but does not get involved
    eg Educator sets up and resources for play and then observes. Educator may quiz children about content of play, but does not follow up or become part of the imaginary play.
  4. Educator has sustained, shared conversations with children during play
    eg using the pirate example above, “what do you think it’s like to live like a pirate? Would you have lots of treasure? Where would that come from? How do you think people would have felt when the pirates took their treasure (empathy)? What’s it like sailing on the sea?” etc
  5. Educator is involved in children’s imaginary play
    eg Educator takes on role of a character in the children’s play (eg pirate).

Source: M Fleer 2015 Pedagogical positioning in play – teachers being inside and outside of children’s imaginary play

Reflect on which scenario(s) you think are the most common in ECEC services? What do you generally do? Now reflect on which scenario you think has the best outcomes for children.


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