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What To Say When Children Play by Emma Kirk @pagesandpaintau

Have you ever thought about what Play is?

Through the eyes of an Early Childhood Educator, it’s a rabbit hole you need to be prepared to go down, because it honestly looks different for everyone, is hugely subjective and is something that is continually up for discussion.

The Early Years Learning Framework; a document prepared by the Council of Australian Governments to guide the teaching and learning of Early Childhood Educators within Australia quotes, “Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine…. Play can expand children’s thinking and enhance their desire to know and to learn.”

Knowing this as a parent is valuable. Why? Because sometimes we overcomplicate or overthink play by creating elaborate set ups and feel the need to have all the latest decadent toys, whereas the underlying themes here are connection, following our children’s curiosities and freedom.

Rather than focusing on what our children are playing with, we should pivot our thoughts towards how they are playing. This is where we have huge influence because carefully considering what to say when children play can substantially elevate their learning, enjoyment and engagement.

Here are three ways how.

1. Ask the right questions. Asking questions is often an inroad for us to join in the play but we need to make sure we ask the right ones. Asking obvious questions like “where’s the tractor?” or “what animal is this?” may interfere with their thought processes and act more of a quiz than connecting with them. Rather, ask questions that encourage conversation and don’t require a simple yes/no, one word response.

For example, “Tell me where the tractor is off to….” and “what’s happening over here with the ducks?”


2. Model imagination and conversation. Play doesn’t just happen naturally for children so its hugely beneficial for them to observe and listen to how we play and create dialogue. Think of it as a monologue and literally say everything that you are doing and thinking while playing.


3. Use correct terminology and avoid cute, made up words. Exposure to vocabulary in context is so important as it lays a strong foundation for comprehension. Our children may not understand every word they hear but they wont understand them if they don’t have the opportunity to hear them pronounced correctly in the first place.



With my teacher hat on, I can’t stress enough the importance of making time to read with your children ... not just reading to your child, but with them.

By exposing them to print in some shape or form (not just books) on your daily happenings will have huge benefits to their language and literacy acquisition.

The main idea here is to expose them to different forms of print and for them to begin to see how print conveys meaning and has a purpose. It’s easier than you think. I will be expanding literacy finding the learning in the everyday in my next blog. 

" The Fire Of Literacy Is Created By The Sparks Between A Child, A Book And The Person Reading. " 

Mem Fox