What is the Role of Adults in Children’s Play?

image of a man playing with building blocks with his daughter

Children’s playtime is very important in their development, especially during early childhood. During play, children learn more about themselves and the world around them. Children will prefer different types of play in early childhood as they grow through different life stages, but adults still have a role to play through them all.

They learn more about their bodies and their physical capabilities as well as social skills, fine and gross motor skills and how to interact with others. Children’s play also encourages them to build a rich and complex inner life, like a vivid imagination.

One of the most obvious roles for adults in children’s play is ensuring there isn’t a safety concern. However, there are other benefits, like trust and bond-building between the child and parent. 

There’s a lot that children can learn from interacting with the adults around them, especially through modelled behaviour.

Children experiment when they feel safe and secure; an adult’s presence can provide this security for a child by simply being nearby and providing them with a space where they feel comfortable exploring and trying new things. 

How can adults help with children’s play?

Planning play

During playtime, one role of an adult is to provide a fun and appropriate environment for the child to play and be themselves. Whether indoors or outdoors, the adult should create an environment where the child feels secure and safe to explore.

An adult can ensure that a child’s play environment is suitable by focusing on the child’s interests, preferences and abilities. They can further their child’s development by challenging the child’s experiences and pre-existing knowledge in a way that expands on it.

This can be done by introducing new toys and materials to help the child explore and become familiar with the space around them. While the role of the adult in adult-led play is to plan and facilitate, they must also incorporate a way for the child to make their own choices.

They can do this by allowing the children to pick their own toys or method of play and just follow along. Uninterrupted independent play will help children develop their creativity and attention span. It will also give children a sense of confidence.

Some children might need a little more inspiration at playtime, which is fine too! If your child needs some direction, introduce toys and dress-up outfits or verbally give them a few starting points to start them off.

Our handy blog has listed some of the best imaginative play toys to encourage children’s development.

Supporting play

To help children learn through play, adults must ensure that they’re not dominating but rather taking on a supportive role. The mere presence of an adult or parent can encourage children to lose inhibitions and play freely.

An adult’s presence provides safety and security. But it’s also worth noting that projected thoughts and feelings can impact a child’s play experiences. Having a happy and relaxed parent in that setting can create a more positive play experience for them.

Parents can support children’s play by being engaged during playtime. Talking to children while they play lets them know that the adults support them and their play decisions. It also signals to the child that the adult is invested in them.

Observation can also be another way that adults can support children’s play. Rather than jumping in to help the child with everything, sometimes it’s better to observe from a distance while letting the child know you’re available if they need you. This allows the child to learn for themselves and come to their own conclusion about new experiences.

Another way that adults can show that they are supporting children’s play is by actively participating. This signals that you value the child’s play and it’s fun for them! Children can learn positive behaviours and communication skills by having close contact with their parents during play. They can then take these skills and apply them when they’re interacting and playing with other children. 

Adults support children in play simply by being there. Their presence can be necessary to intervene if the children struggle to resolve a conflict. It can also offer the child comfort, giving them the confidence to initiate or participate in play and try out unfamiliar tasks.

Reviewing play

Adults can review children’s play simply by checking in with the children. Observing the child’s play, talking to the child and listening to them can lead to higher-quality play experiences. The adult can gauge what the child enjoys and understand what would make playtime even more enjoyable.

Reviewing children’s play can also give adults a better idea of the child’s personality and overall disposition. Children lose fear when playing as they’re quite unguarded, so this is a perfect time to get to know the child better and bond with them.

This is an ideal opportunity to uplift and build up the child’s self-esteem and self-worth through positive reinforcement. It’s also a great time to check on the child’s linguistic skills and identify improvements. 

All the information garnered from observation will serve the parent in not only creating a fun play experience but also helping them work out what would make it a more educational play experience as well.

Adults can learn so much from interacting with a child while they play and observing how they play. This knowledge of your children’s interests and preferences can also indicate where the child sits developmentally. 

Read our guide on how to extend children’s play to discover how to keep little ones entertained.

Kickstart playtime with help from Play Like Mum

Not all children find it easy to play with no prompts. Sometimes they might need a little inspiration and kids role-play ideas to get them going. 

A dolls pram is a great way to guide imaginative play and is the perfect accessory for their favourite interactive doll. We also have a range of twin doll strollers and dolls carriage prams, as well as dolls pram accessories to make playtime even more exciting. 

Discover the full range of doll prams and accessories today at Play Like Mum to find your little one’s next favourite toy.