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How to Incorporate Play in to Your Classroom

Last week we learned all about the importance of play and the role it plays in child development. This week we learn how incorporate play in to your classroom or home!


What Does Play Look Like?

There are so many different forms of play. Let's examine a few.

  • Physical Play - includes climbing, swinging, walking, balancing, hopping, rough and tumble play

  • Social Play - playing and engaging with other children

  • Constructive Play - involves creating many things including blocks, loose parts, Legos, sand play or fort building.

  • Fantasy Play - occurs when children pretend to do something they have seen or heard

  • Games with Rules - includes games such as Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says or board games

Physical Play

When children play by moving their bodies they learn spatial awareness and develop stamina, muscles, balance and coordination. It releases energy, gives a sense of freedom and creates adventure.

Social Play

When children are given longer blocks of play time, they can work together, play together or engage in small group activities. When teachers support this play, children can engage in problem solving tactics and begin to understand social norms and rules.

Constructive Play

During constructive play children can create, invent, manipulate, and problem solve with materials.

Fantasy Play

When children engage in fantasy play, they act out superhero

movies, participate in make-believe or pretend to play "house" or "restaurant". Fantasy play builds language and helps support emotions when children act out how they feel.

Games with Rules

This involves any play that has specific rules and often involves turn taking. Games with rules helps children learn about rules and how to follow them. It helps children learn social norms.

What is Guided Play?

Guided play is a balance between play and direct instruction. It includes the teacher (or other adult) intentionally engaging with children. When adults are engaging with children's play with direct intent (for example a specific lesson or theme), children can increase oral language skills, social skills and executive functions skills. It can also lead to more imaginative play, abstract thinking and creativity.

How do we support children during guided play?

  • Use extended vocabulary related to play to extend learning

  • Support them in problem solving during social/emotional challenges

  • Offer multiple ways to connect to deeper learning (offer menus in the kitchen, write down orders on a note pad)

  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage children to describe or think critically

  • Narrate what is happening to support vocabulary

  • Encourage collaboration between children

  • Observe and offer materials to extend play

  • Offer feedback

To engage in guided play, the adult will follow the child's lead. The adult role is active but not dictatorial. Listen to what the child says, engage in the play and respond to extend the play.


Play is fun and engaging and is the work of children. It can take many forms and it is our job as the adults to extend the play. Be a partner in play and add in when appropriate and necessary. Don't overthink it! And remember to follow the child's lead!


Author: Amanda Gryzkewicz Gloyer is the Founder & CEO of I Can Math. With a degree in elementary education and her experience as a preschool teacher, Amanda created I Can Math in collaboration with former board member, Adam Goldberg, to support preschool classrooms in math education. She holds a Master’s in Public Service Management from DePaul University and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University. Originally from Wisconsin, Amanda lives in Arizona with her husband Kevin, their two children and puggle Rocco.

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