educator in play is that of participant. It
requires the artistry of a true facilitator to
find the balance between acting uninvolved
in the play and taking control of the experience.
This may not come easily to some initially, but with
experience, participation in children’s play can
become one of the most enjoyable parts of the school
day. Participation sends the message that the play is
valued. Through participation, educators can develop
their relationships with children, as well as learn more
about them as thinkers and language users.
The culture of children’s play remains, by and large, a
mystery to adults until they actually get inside of it.
The role of informed participant is to understand and
extend the play without intrusion or interference. The
informed participant knows when to step back and
observe and when to redirect.
This is an example of how an informed participant
can use observations to extend the play without
disrupting it. The goal in this case is to extend the
ideas of the play with the addition of new props that
connect to their scenario.
If we examine each of these stories of facilitation, the
multi-dimensional nature of learning through play
becomes clear. Each area of the curriculum is addressed
in a natural, integrated way. What the teacher does, as
seen in the car chase anecdote, is redirect toward an
area from the Social Studies curriculum for grade one
exploring children’s knowledge and understanding
of community workers, in particular, what they do in
the community and the tools they use. Children are
involved in using their personal knowledge of the role
of the ambulance and emergency room workers and
how they meet the needs of people in the community.
They are communicating their ideas and knowledge
through role play which is an important mode of
communication, especially for young children. In
observing the children, the educator may identify
a need for additional resources or experiences to
extend their knowledge. There does not have to be
competition between the mandated curriculum and
Essentially, in facilitating play, educators need to
reflect on the following questions:
• When I look around the room, who needs my
• When is it an appropriate time for me to become
involved in the children’s play?
• How do I become involved in their play?
• What is my role when I do get involved? What do
• How much do I become involved without
overtaking the play?
• How will this particular child or group of children
react to my involvement?
The physical and social environment of the classroom
has an impact on children’s motivation and attitudes
about learning. In reflecting, teachers may ask:
• Is this classroom a place where children want to
• Do the children feel that they have a ‘voice’ and
are part of the decision- making process?
• Is this classroom a safe place for children to ask
questions, test, and try out ideas?
• Do the materials meet the children’s needs as
• Does the physical environment promote
exploration, investigation, collaboration, and