Letting your Child Lead Play

Letting your Child Lead Play

9 May 2022
Posted by: Chelsea

Letting your child lead play is a fantastic way of helping them to develop their confidence, imagination and social skills.

It can also be great fun too!

Letting your child lead play

There’s nothing mysterious about the technique here.

It’s simply a case of letting your child define what they play, how and when (within safety limits of course!) and you joining in. It also means letting your child be the boss because many parents, quite unintentionally, ‘take over’ their children’s play once they start getting involved.

Every parent has done it, so don’t feel guilty!

How it works

The methodology is straightforward:

  • watch your child play;
  • don’t offer advice or guidance and above all, don’t demonstrate the “right way to do it”;
  • let your child show or talk you through their play. Most will do so quite spontaneously once they see they have your attention. If they don’t, you can prompt them by asking some general questions – that will often generate an invitation to play with them;
  • keep smiling at all time and show genuine interest;
  • allow your child to assign you roles. Some may decide they have a shop and you’re the customer. They’ll delight in serving you and pretending to give change;
  • try not to slowly take over the principal role in the play, evolve it or hurry it along. Most children will notice and step back for you – which is not what you’re seeking to achieve;
  • if possible, your child should decide when the game is over or needs to change. That should be your cue to either gently withdraw or possibly join in the new game.


Practical difficulties

Almost every parent has experienced a game with their children that seems endless and which is putting at risk other urgent home or professional jobs.

A slight variation is those games that simply can’t work, will be too dangerous or which have sentiments you’re uncomfortable with (e.g., “let’s get the baddies and shoot them all”).

There are no easy answers to these things. The only advice must be to try to value and recognise your child’s leadership and make any corrections to their play very gentle and very subtle.

The benefits

If you encourage and participate in child-led play, rather than just give your child someone to play with, it can have huge benefits:

  • it permits the maximum utilisation of their imagination and its further development;
  • they’ll develop confidence in their own creativity and even, to some extent, leadership;
  • emotionally they’ll gain from spending what they’ll see as quality time with you;
  • you’ll be showing your confidence in them and most children, up to at least puberty and possibly throughout their lives, are in constant need of parental approval.


So yes, you may find yourself trying to fit awkwardly into that cardboard box which has apparently become a castle or crawling around on the floor pretending to be a snake but in the end, it’ll be worthwhile!

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