6 Ways to Empower Children’s Play as Parents And Educators

Child rolling cars down a curved pastel ball run made using standard Connetix tiles.

What is play empowerment?

Recently there has been a push down to include formal academic learning in early years settings. This can be harmful for kids, especially when the instruction is not age appropriate. For example, expecting a toddler to sit for long periods of time. Want to know something that is vital to the health, wellbeing, and academic success? PLAY!

Most parents are aware of this message, but did you know that by allowing your child a voice in their play, you could be setting them up for personal growth? The voice that children are given can be referred to ‘play empowerment’.

Play empowerment is when a child follows their interest and chooses what they want to play, allowing them to have the ‘power’. Having this ‘control’ of their choices and interests empowers children to build independence, capability, self-esteem, confidence, resilience and helps them be better learners. It also motivates a child’s curiosity through using their imagination to problem-solve and discover the world around them.

child lining up Connetix pastel square tiles in a domino track outdoors on a deck.
@thecoconuttybunch

How do we encourage this type of child-led play?

One simple way to encourage play empowerment is to put out a selection of items in the child’s space for them to freely move in between. Some examples include Connetix, play dough and cookie cutters, paper and coloured pencils and wooden blocks and dolls. You can even put out items from around the home, empty cereal boxes with pencils and sticky tape, some pots and pans and a box with an oven drawn in sharpie!

You can set your child up for success by allowing them to make choices in their play. Each child is different, so putting out items based on your child’s interests is an excellent choice. You can also add a ‘surprise’ item they don’t usually play with, to spark some creativity. The main aim is CHOICE and freedom to support children to be confident and encouraged in their choices.

‘Adult agenda’ can hinder development

Freedom to choose does not mean you cannot get involved in your child’s play to empower them! You can set up examples of play for them to choose from, showing them different opportunities to play. We just need to be mindful that we don’t want to add our ‘adult agenda’ to their play. When we give the impression that children must play a certain way, this can disempower their play and stop the amazing developmental skills that child-led play can develop.

Connetix and play empowerment

Blonde girl in denim jacket playing with a Connetix ferris made of rainbow and clear tiles on a Clear base Plate.
@these_little_kids_of_mine

Connetix are an excellent resource for this type of play. You could set up a tower, rocket or even an alphabet play station for them with whiteboard markers. Don’t be surprised if they take your play set-up and make it into something else! This is the BEST example of play empowerment.

Allowing a child to knock down a set up something an adult has ‘suggested’ and change it into a different type of play! This shows a child that their play and autonomy is important, which encourages empowerment in their play.

  

How can Connetix help?

Looking for some ways that Connetix can help play empowerment? Here are a few examples of activities to help.

Did you know there are also different domains of play which we can empower children to develop? They include:

  1. Physical and movement
  2. Functional
  3. Constructive and symbolic
  4. Fantasy, imaginative and pretend
  5. Games with rules and social
  6. Storytelling and narrative

Physical and movement

Physical and movement play encourages your little one to build strong muscles and bones, working on coordination and balance. This isn’t just about large body movements but can also be concentration in one area of their bodies. Connetix can be used as a gross-motor obstacle course or fine motor domino run! Once again, these are just suggestions, child-led choice is so important for play autonomy!

Functional

A child standing with hands in the air next to a Rainbow Connetix Tower made of standard Connetix Squares that is taller than her.
@raisingsmallreaders

Functional play is when a child uses an item for its intended purpose during play. For example: rolling a ball or building towers with Connetix. It’s simply about enjoying the experience of an object and exploring the properties of that object during play.

Constructive and symbolic

Constructive play is when children manipulate items in their environment to create something new. They can even branch into symbolic play, where they build and manipulate Connetix to ‘pretend’ it is another object, such as items at a bakery, or an animal enclosure.

Fantasy, imaginative and pretend

Curly brunette boy in colourful top using Connetix Ball Run tubes and connector tiles as binoculars.
@pax.loves.knox

Children love pretend play! Make believe play can dive into the realms of fantasy and encourages children to naturally work on empathy and is also used as a self-regulating or calming strategy. Connetix can be used in this type of play through role play, for example building castles to hide a dragon, an aeroplane to fly or creating a storefront to sell items.

Games with rules play / Social

Games with rules are all about exploring laws and rules and social constructs. These sound like pretty big concepts for a young child, but it’s something that children really enjoy! Socially this helps children understand and make relationships with others outside of their immediate family. Check out the following boardgamesthat children have enjoyed making with Connetix.

Child using Connetix to play hangman. 3 large tiles are used to record the hangman game, letter guess, and keep score. A row of standard squares are used to track the word being guessed.
@learning_in_d

Storytelling and narrative

Narrative play assists children in building upon oral language development and communication skills. It also helps children with language and comprehension skills required when later learning how to read. Bookish play and Connetix have been a favourite! You can set up your child’s favourite story with Connetix to encourage this type of play.

A row of pastel Connetix squares in a line with numbers written on them in chalk marker. Child placing matching wooden numbers on corresponding tiles.
@the_little_adventurer

PLAY, it’s how children learn BEST!

Children learn best during play, especially when it’s child-led and in a safe and supportive environment where play empowerment is encouraged. Open-ended toys such as Connetix make excellent tools for this type of play as they encourage children to make their own play choices. There is no way to get it ‘wrong’.

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