Self-directed play is one of the fundamental elements of the Montessori method of education for preschoolers. Self-directed play and hands-on learning allows kids to make creative choices, while their highly-trained teachers guide the process and offer age-appropriate activities. In this form of play, children get to learn through their own experience and at their own pace, while responding to their natural curiosities and instincts.
As you consider enrolling your child in Montessori Preschool Winnetka, it’s essential to understand the importance of self-directed play and how you can encourage it outside the classroom environment!
Importance of Self-Directed Play in Your Preschooler
Self-directed play is where the children or players themselves direct play. For example, if your child uses their toys in creative ways without instructions from you, they are already on the right path. This is unlike adult-directed play such as school sports where teachers or coaches are in charge of directing the kids. Self-directed play is crucial for children between the ages of two and five for the following reasons:
- Self-directed play builds self-confidence in kids. As they explore and follow their instincts, children learn that there is much more they can do on their own, and this grows their confidence at a young age.
- It fosters independence. When a child learns to play on their own at a young age, they experience a sense of independence in other areas of their life as well. According to research by AAP, play that is directed by children encourages them to engage in activities they have interest in, and this enables them to take initiatives without adult supervision.
- It stimulates creativity. When your child has a drawing book and crayons in front of them, they are free to draw and color anything they can think of without instruction. This sparks creativity and enables them to create their own scenarios and storylines as they play.
- Self-directed play builds problem-solving skills. Without an adult to direct them, kids get to look for different ways to solve the problems at hand. As they make their own rules along the way, they unknowingly develop problem-solving skills.
- Self-directed way encourages kids to learn at their own pace. There’s no rush to achieve milestones or get things done at an adult’s pace. The child builds on their knowledge, a day at a time, and in a way that makes sense to them.
How to Encourage Self-Directed Play in Your Preschooler
Once your child joins a Montessori Preschool Winnetka, self-directed play becomes an integral part of their education. However, in addition to this, there’s a need for you to encourage it at home as well. Since children spend most of their time at home, engaging in self-directed play increases their independence in school, and this can help streamline the learning process.
Below are some steps you can take to encourage self-directed play in your preschool child!
1. Invest in Basic Toys
Start with basic, inexpensive toys, and preferably those that can be used for numerous play possibilities. Examples include balls, clay, scarves, boxes, blocks, sticks, and many more. You can also collect loose parts such as pebbles, buttons, and seashells. Anything that will stimulate the child’s imagination and problem-solving skills is a great start!
2. Don’t Play for Your Kid
When you’re used to playing for and with your kid, it can be hard to take a step back and supervise. However, self-directed play features no adult interference. All you need to do is monitor it. Therefore, avoid playing for your kids or giving them orders and instructions. Let them follow their instincts and learn at their pace.
3. Do Not Psychoanalyze Play
Have you ever seen your kids play and started wondering what the end-game is? For example, if your daughter picks up a doll and buries it in the sand, you may be tempted to wonder, or even ask, what she is doing. Avoid this as it gives the child a sense of wrongdoing. Instead, let them follow their imagination without giving them the notion that whatever their doing makes you anxious.
4. Exercise Patience When Supervising
Patience is the key to supervising self-directed play. There’s an urge to help your child figure things out when they’re stuck, but doing so will only increase their dependence on you. Give them time to figure things out. Let them assemble those blocks until they do it right. You will be amazed at how much the child can do without your assistance!
5. Prepare the Playing Environment
Finally, create a play-friendly environment for your preschooler. If you don’t have a playroom, you can use the living room, bedroom, or backyard for outdoor games. Just make sure the environment has little disturbances and disruptions to allow your child to think and be creative.
Self-directed play is crucial to child development. Enroll your child in a Montessori preschool where they can learn independence, creativity, problem-solving, and other essential virtues that come with self-directed play!