Playful roaming, free play … attractive concepts but which sometimes plunge early childhood professionals into a certain confusion. They no longer know where they belong. Observe the child, okay … But how and why? And is their role really limited to that: watching him play? We take stock with Anne-Sophie Casal, psychologist, and trainer at FM2J, the national training center for games and toys in France.
Choose games or toys that reassure the child
The first mission of professionals is to choose safe toys for children: that is to say, safety standards. It’s obvious. But it is also knowing how to choose the toys that will reassure them, that will not defeat them but rather enhance them. For the little ones, Anne-Sophie Casal cites the example of the activity table which is a game of causality: I press, it sounds. Or the rattle: I wave it and the bell tinkles or the magnetic tiles among other building toys. These games allow self-awareness to emerge. But the emotional security provided during play comes mainly from the posture of the adult vis-à-vis the child. Taking the time to watch a child play is important.
Provide the child with games and toys adapted to their development
How to promote the autonomy of the child? By choosing games or toys upstream that are adapted to its development. And Anne-Sophie Casal to cite the example of puzzles:
“Some puzzles,” she notes, “require the help of an adult.” I think of those that have several shapes: round, star, square, etc. While a puzzle comprising circles of different sizes will be more accessible and the child will be able to fend for himself. “
In the same way, we do not shake a rattle in front of a baby, we let the child do it when he is able to do it.
At the start, autonomy means being free to choose your game. “But that doesn’t mean that we have to leave everything at the child’s disposal,” explains Anne-Sophie Casal. The adult, the professional must put a playful diversity at the disposal of the child. That is to say, games and toys that meet his different needs. ” Built-in games for example for calm, motor games for their need to move, a dinette to pretend and imitate, etc. “You have to think of play spaces as diversified spaces both in terms of skills and playful needs,” insists the psychologist. The role of the professional is to ensure this availability – therefore to make choices beforehand – because this is what will promote the autonomy of children.
Attention playful diversity does not mean quantity … If there are too many things, the child will tend to spend his time emptying, filling unpacking, and possibly transporting. “You need fewer toys for more play” concludes Anne-Sophie Casal.
Allow the child to land, do not over-stimulate him
For a little one to arise, there are several conditions. First of all, to arrange free playtime in the daily lives of children: that is to say that an adult is himself “put down” with children. It is, therefore, to allow a professional to do just that: to be there, calm and attentive to them. The professional must also keep the play area “ready to play” because the play areas must be legible and clear for children. Finally, the professional also to invite to play, that is to say, to initiate by setting up playing situations.
Limit his interventions so that the child remains in control of his game
“The adult should not take power over children’s play, Anne-Sophie Casal analyzes, otherwise we make children who can do nothing on their own.”
Help me do it alone said, Maria Montessori. That’s exactly it in a free play situation: you need a physical presence but not necessarily an intervention. An example: a dinette space, a small table where the professional will have placed a few cups. The idea: let the child decide what he wants to do even if he makes soup from cups! And don’t tell her, so are you giving me tea? On the other hand, if the child requests it, he will answer him at least. Being present and knowing how to erase yourself, not to act while listening … it’s not that easy! Letting the child master his game is essential “because it is the game that will allow him to build his I” adds the psychologist. And the less we intervene the better we will perceive his needs because he expresses them through play ”
Do not ignore the directed games that help the child grow
But Anne-Sophie Casal is formal: the child also needs more directed play. To learn. He needs to learn things from an adult to grow. There must be a balance between the space left for free and spontaneous play, this game of which no results are expected, and games with an “educational” aim. If there is not this balance, professionals will tend to interfere in children’s play. The child is dependent on the adult for everything. It shouldn’t be in the game! This is why the psychologist-trainer advocates that in teams and during transmissions with parents, we value free play as an activity in its own right.