Child-Led Play: Explained

When I first started my undergrad program many years ago, one of the first things we learned about was child-led play. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what it was but like many of you have probably already done, I assumed that it meant allowing children to take the lead in their play. And basically, you’re right. In today’s blog, we’re going to deeply discuss the importance of child-led play and how you can incorporate it into your interactions with children.


As we discussed earlier, child-led play is a form of expression by the child’s own free will, to play as they see fit. It’s my belief that children, regardless of age and development will find a method to play in such a way that suits them. Whether it’s a child who is hospitalized playing with their sheets and scraps of paper or a child wandering the streets playing with rocks. Children play, because that’s what they are designed to do.

What does it mean to let a child lead in play

Letting a child lead in play means to throw out any rules or preconceived ideas about how things work, the way games operate etc. It means to allow the child the space and freedom to decide for themselves how they wish to manipulate objects. Child-led play requires very little interference from parents and caregivers. Through my many years of creating space for child-led play with the children I’ve interacted with I noticed that the times when they need my interference the most was when there was a safety concern and I needed to set limits or when they needed verbal encouragement.

You might enjoy reading: The Key To Getting a Strong-Willed Child To Listen 

Importance of child-led play

So, by now you’re probably wondering why child-led play is so important. Child-led play as opposed to directive play gives children the chance to learn how things work, discover new ways to achieve their needs and it encourages exploration. I’ve noticed several benefits from child-led play and I’m going to share those with you.

Benefits of Child Led Play
  • Extends play time
  • The child will be more comfortable playing alone
  • Increases the child’s focus
  • Builds the child’s confidence in accomplishing tasks


How to incorporate it into your life

Alright so let’s discuss ways to input child-led play into your interactions with children. It’s easier to incorporate child-led play when children are young because they can get accustomed to it faster and they don’t know of anything different. But I don’t think anything is impossible, so I’m going to share with you some tips on how to get started with child-led play.

  • Acquire toys and material that can be manipulated by your child easily
  • Acquire items and toys that are challenging but not too challenging for your child
  • Decrease the instructions or directive statements that you give to your child during play
  • Trust your child to figure out how to play with things
  • Verbally encourage your child through their frustrations

With this newfound information, you are ready to let your child benefit from the experience of child-led play. If you’re interested in booking a private consultation with me, click here.


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Hi I’m Emily


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