How Important Is Directed Play In EYFS?

Written by Dan

Last updated

This blog post will explore the importance of directed play in EYFS. We’ll examine what led play is, why it’s essential, and how it can benefit teachers and students. Whether you’re new to the Early Years of teaching or an experienced veteran, we hope you’ll find this blog post informative and helpful!

Define directed play and its benefits

Directed play is an educational approach to engage children in learning through play-based activities. Its main goal is to actively foster the development of physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills by encouraging children to practice their skills in enjoyable activities.

It also aims to empower children and make them creative problem solvers by allowing them to explore different materials and discover discoverable connections while continuing with their chosen activity.

Research conducted by academics at the University of Cambridge revealed a significant link between directed play and development in children aged three to eight.

By collecting data from numerous sources, it was found that this approach to learning is just as practical as traditional teacher-led methods when enhancing literacy, numeracy, social skills and essential thinking abilities for up to 3,800 kids.

The research further indicates that when children engage in structured play, they can acquire specific abilities – particularly in math- more efficiently than with traditional teaching.

There has been a long historical dialogue concerning the strengths of play-based education over formal learning styles; however, much of this discourse has focused exclusively on unstructured and open-ended play.

Researchers have conducted the first systematic study on directed play, a unique approach to teaching children which leverages games or playful activities to cultivate learning objectives, with assistance from an educator who poses open-ended questions and prompts.

Dr Elizabeth Byrne, a co-author, said: Researchers have recently acknowledged the learning potential in play on a spectrum. One end of this spectrum consists of free space, which encourages children to decide what they do with minimal intervention from adults; at the other extreme is direct instruction, where an adult outlines and controls each activity.

‘Directed play is like a blend of two educational approaches. This method involves playful activities directed by an instructor towards a specific learning goal while allowing children to experiment and discover independently.

Providing kids with this type of freedom and some helpful direction is more beneficial for their education than direct instruction alone.’

Paul Ramchandani, professor of play in education, development and learning at the University of Cambridge, said:

‘Despite some people’s beliefs, playtime motivates children to learn and provides an exceptional opportunity for them to develop. Even though there is uncertainty about the best ways of using guided play in classrooms, there is powerful proof demonstrating how effective it can be when utilized properly.’

Early Years Educator

How Directed Play Aids Children Development

Directed play is an incredibly beneficial activity for children in their development. Playing with another person helps engage young minds, even those just beginning to understand the world around them.

This kind of play enhances communication, problem-solving skills, and collaborative team-building skills as children learn to take turns, listen, encourage each other and negotiate.

Directed play can also help improve executive functioning through repeating patterns, visual tracking activities and using manual dexterity when manipulating simple puzzles or physical objects such as games and toys.

Bonding between parent and child is also established as they work on a task together while having fun. Overall, not only is directed play enjoyable for both parents and children, but it is also great for developing essential skills that will last them a lifetime.

Adult-Led V Child-Initiated Play

Ensuring a proper balance between adult-led activities and child-initiated play is vital. Allowing children to explore and make their own choices through unstructured play helps them gain creativity, confidence, problem-solving skills, and more.

At the same time, adult-led activities can help guide children towards better decision-making and understanding of complex concepts. As a result, finding the right balance is critical in creating an environment that allows children to develop in both areas while having a safe learning space where they will feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Every parent or caretaker needs to recognize this importance and create occasions where these activities are conducted so kids can continue moving forward intellectually and emotionally throughout their growth process.

How To Incorporate Directed Play

Incorporating directed play into everyday life with young children has many benefits. Directed play helps to shape the development of their physical, cognitive, and social skills.

It can also be a way for parents to guide their children in understanding appropriate behaviour and responses. To start, choose a simple game or activity that suits the individual child’s interests and abilities.

Snuggling up together to read stories is a great way to begin introducing the directed play, as it creates an intimate bond between parent and child. Engaging in building and construction activities allows them to develop problem-solving skills by piecing bits of information from stories together with tangible objects like blocks or LEGO.

It can also make learning math concepts such as counting or shapes more fun! Playing simple mimicking games, such as ‘repeating actions’, allows them to practice verbal communication while they have fun moving around together.

Finally, sending kids outside often is another excellent way to incorporate directed play into the lives of young children: running races let them use up pent-up energy; playing tag teaches them agility; exploring nature lets their imaginations run wild.

Parents can facilitate any of these activities while paying close attention to their children’s emotional needs. With a bit of creativity, it’s easy to bring deliberate fun into your family dynamics!

The benefits of directed play for parents and caregivers

For parents and caregivers, directed play can provide numerous benefits. Not only does it help to nurture the child’s creative side, but it also helps to form a strong bond between them.

Directed play encourages a child to learn more about the world around them safely and creatively, allowing them to connect with their environment. It provides an opportunity for parents and caregivers to show their children that they can help at any time while teaching them some of life’s crucial lessons.

Best of all, the directed play gives children a chance to take risks and express themselves freely as they challenge any preconceived mental barriers that may be present.

Through directed play, parents and caregivers can provide opportunities for children to practice specific skills while still allowing them the freedom to explore and experiment.

This type of play is essential for skill development and confidence-building in young children. It is also an excellent way for parents and caregivers to bond with their children.

Try incorporating some of these tips on directing play into your everyday routine with your child or toddler. You may be surprised at the benefits that you both experience!

If you found this article useful, you may enjoy our blog on how to look after the well-being of your children in EYFS.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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