Child-Centered Play

Understanding Child-Centered Play

It seems natural for adults to take the lead when they are around children because that’s often what’s needed to keep little ones safe and on-track, but it can build stronger bonds when you allow your child to make decisions during play.

Rather than telling your child what to do as they play, this technique asks that you copy their actions and behaviors, commenting and reflecting without judgment on what they are doing. This approach reinforces their independence and helps them learn.

You can expand on their ideas and improve their vocabulary at the same time. If they push their toy train in a circle, for example, you might comment: “The long, red train is going round and round in circles.” Your child’s developing brain has now learned two describing words for the train (long, red) while also understanding the concept of a shape (round = circle) and practiced their motor skills by operating the train…all in a few seconds of play!

In the brief video below, Tyne explains effective ways to engage in child-centered, sometimes call child-directed, play with your child.

Other Resources

Tip Sheets:

Learn more about from the parent resource page at the Association for Play Therapy.

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