Play time is important for the development of your child. Free play is when you let your child lead and drive the play experience without interference or involvement. It has been widely researched to bring many benefits for the well-being of children. But did you know that guided play has its own merits as well?
What is Guided Play?
Guided play is when there is involvement from the adults, whether from the parents or the caregiver. This may happen before the play time starts, or during play time itself, with the intention of reinforcing set goals.
Adults can practise guided play in two ways. One is to set the play environment to guide the child toward particular outcomes, then step back and observe while the child plays.
The other way is to ask questions or provide comments that support specific learning goals during child-directed play.
You can turn a free play experience into guided play by joining your child and asking questions related to their activity. For example, if they selected to play with magnetic tiles, you can ask questions like:
“How many tiles do you need for the roof?” This question can help them learn counting.
“What colour are the square tiles?” This tells you what colours and shapes they know.
“Which tile is the biggest?” This teaches them simple physical concepts and logic.
Benefits of Guided Play
While free play is good for developing storytelling, self-regulation, and socio-emotional skills, guided play is great for math, science, language, and computational thinking.
Having an adult ask questions can result in discovery moments for the child. Aside from that, these are the benefits of guided play based on research:
- Active learning because the child focuses while participating.
- Children are more focused and not distracted.
- Playing with toys and proper materials makes skills less abstract. For example, learning about colours while playing with blocks can be more meaningful than when doing it with flashcards.
- When parents join their child, playing becomes socially interactive. Research has shown that this enhances children’s development in a variety of ways.
Another benefit of guided play is creating positive emotional states for your child. In a Facebook Live appearance at McDonald’s Happy Meal O’Clock, Doctor Gia Sison notes that doing activities with your child can be your bonding moment.
Playing and spending time with your child not only fills their love tank for the day, but it also creates long-term memories that they will store in their minds until they grow up. They will also associate learning with happy emotions, leading to their positive attitude towards it.
How You Can Apply Guided Play With Your Child
One good way to practise guided play with your child, and to help them develop social skills at the same time, is to discover what their passion points are.
Examples of passion points include:
- Exploring Outdoors
- Watching videos and/or movies
You can find out what your child’s interests and passion points are by observing them.
“You would feel it,” Doc Gia says. “Like if your kid is into watching movies, or writing, or dancing. For me kasi passion is something subjective. We can’t categorise it into one bucket.
“You have to observe. Finding [out] or feeling your child’s passion is something mindful that you do every day because it evolves and it changes.”
Doc Gia adds, “Experiment siya. So kunwari pag nanonood kayo ng movie, tingnan mo kung ga’no siya ka-interested. Or pag nagda-dance, playing in the park, [any] physical activity. Tingnan mo kung sa’n siya mas interested. At tandaan natin na nag-iiba sya. It’s not fixed.”
Doc Gia explains that if for example your child shows interest in dancing at a certain age, it may still change over time. She adds: “It’s dynamic. It evolves. But be mindful about it.”
Games to Play Based on Your Child’s Passion Points
Guided play becomes more meaningful when you have discovered your child’s passion points. You can think of games and activities to play with your child. By doing this, they become more engaged and they start to look forward to learning.
For example, if your child loves building, you can play with blocks or magnetic tiles. If they enjoy cooking, you can pretend-play with kitchen toys and order food items from their “restaurant.” Or you can have a real baking activity and make cookies!
Meanwhile, if your child loves to sing, you can play “fill in the lyrics” or “guess the song from humming a tune.” And you can play “stop dance” or “guess the dance move” if they love dancing.
How about if they love video games and movies? You can introduce them to the characters from the screen to the physical by playing with toys.
You can do just that with the latest collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal, which features the well-loved characters of Super Mario.
And since Mario and the gang are off to a new adventure in the upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie this 2023, it’s a great way to hype them up by playing with the characters in real life!
The collection includes eight toys: Sliding Mario, Mario in a Kart, Luigi, Toad, Lumalee, Donkey Kong, Bowser, and Princess Peach.
You can use the Super Mario Happy Meal toys to foster your child’s imagination and creativity in pretend play, and even problem solving. This is by letting them take Mario and the rest of the gang on adventures and asking guided questions on how the characters can overcome challenges.
Guided play has many benefits, but we think the most important one is your time with your child. As Doc Gia notes, “Just let your child be and be with your child. Your presence really matters.”
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