Guided Play

When thinking about a child’s day, it is common to classify time as playtime (e.g., recess, free play on the playroom floor) or instructional time (e.g., direct instruction in class, worksheets for homework). Indeed, many schools are decreasing recess in favor of direct instruction. However, recent research suggests that a “sweet spot” for learning exists between these two extremes. Guided play, in which a more experienced play partner follows a child’s lead, but scaffolds the child’s learning via exploration, has garnered much support. This entry reviews this evidence, discusses the benefits of this method, and offers suggestions on how to incorporate guided play in early childhood education settings.

Think about a child learning about shapes. One vision calls to mind a room of students sitting quietly ...

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