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The Role of the Early Childhood Educator in Facilitating and Supporting Play


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Childhood educators understand that play is a critical component for healthy child development during the early stages. Through play, children can explore their environment, solve problems, try their curiosity, and express themselves. According to Elkind (2003), play is a critical component that servers to make children learn and understand their ever-changing world. Both teachers and families have diverse perspectives in viewing the role of play. While parents ask whether their children played, teachers suggest that play is the child’s initiative. The existing differences of perspective and purpose pose a dilemma in understanding the role of childhood educators in providing planned and supervised play activities. In this article, we shall explain the role of childhood teachers in supporting play in child development.

       According to Gisburg (2007), unstructured play is essential for child development from infancy to the end of early childhood development. Unlike the unstructured play, child-directed play involves an adult engagement who controls children as they execute activities in space. As teachers plan practical play activities, children are intrinsically motivated to engage with materials free from eternal limits actively. During their exploration, children portray positivity towards play and attentiveness as they carry out various activities. Children become more creative and symbolic as they use available materials to bring about contemporary life experiences. For example, they use small blocks as a telephone and a board with pegs as birthday cakes. Thus, the teacher’s presence maximizes the benefits of play by directing children towards appropriate development practices.

Teachers have critical roles of solving problems, questioning, reflecting on undesired behaviors, and introducing children to play themes. Children with difficulty engaging in play get assisted by the teacher. During play, teachers enforce curriculum content by enticing children into the play themes, providing necessary materials, and helping children expand their concepts. Better learning experiences are enhanced as teachers assist children to plan for roles, motivate them to ask open-ended questions, talk to their peers, and have an active engagement. McAfee and Leong (2010), state that teachers’ presence and interactions intensify the complexity, time and frequency of childhood activities with increased language and cognitive capacities. During the play, the teacher facilitates social interactions as well as engaging children in space. The teacher identifies and effectively plan for specific knowledge and skills necessary for children development.

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