A child initiated activity is something that your child chooses to do independently. Please note; an adult saying go and play in the garden, or, let’s do some painting, is adult initiated!
It is during child initiated activities that we get to see in the windows of our children’s brains, because concepts and knowledge that they have understood from all subjects gets acted out in their play. It is also a chance for your child to demonstrate and practice the Characteristics of Effective Learning. These are the crucial learning behaviours and attitudes people need to be successful learners.
As their imagination and creativity develops they will be able to construct more complex situations and stories, requiring more resources to be combined.
Listen to the story they are narrating as they play. Does it make sense? Are they mispronouncing words? Do they have all the necessary vocabulary in their repertoire? This is where you need to join in with their play to model what it should look like. If your child chooses a craft / model idea for their CIA, encourage them to play with it once it’s made, or find and prepare the resources independently. This helps them deconstruct an idea to individual parts so they can recognise the stages that are needed. Playing with it helps the review and evaluation process, where flaws in their design are highlighted and rectified. If you present them with all of the resources perfectly cut out the activity becomes an instruction following one or a jigsaw to fit together. This activity is the same as providing your child with pages of sums to do.
This will not help them practice the vital critical thinking skills needed to solve maths questions. They do not need to sift through their ideas or knowledge and choose the most appropriate for the task in hand, they have all the components handed to them. If all pieces are perfect, they never feel the frustration of not cutting accurately in order for the pieces fit together, therefore importance of accuracy is not practised, vital for science and maths. They will not ‘feel’ mistakes, perseverance, satisfaction etc. It is this ‘feeling’ that they will remember and learn from.
This type of play takes self-confidence, imagination, problem solving, initiative and creativity. All essential skills for traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and Art.
Week 5 of Aiming for one idea to last all week!
By this age your child should be increasingly independent. They should relish challenge and ideally be curious about problem solving, looking and devising their own problems to overcome. They should be using phrases such as, ‘I wonder what will happen if....’ ‘Why does that happen?’
Your role should be to prompt this type of thinking if it is not happening, actively challenge and question your child on their choices, actions, and decisions. Encourage them to think more broadly.
This creative thinking can be just as challenging for adults. Your child always ‘plays’ and you don’t give the content or quality of the play much thought. If they always do the same type of play they will only practise the same type of skills. Much the same as if you only practise addition you won’t know subtraction or fractions, if you only paint you won’t be accomplished at constructing. You may be more skilful at this but will never know!!
Make suggestions if they automatically choose the same thing or style. If they draw lots of unrelated single pictures challenge them to plan their approach first. Rather than drawing a rainbow, or flower, monster, car etc encourage them to draw a whole scene with lots of detail, make a picture book that tells a story. Do they always draw a picture then write ‘To ...... love from .......’ Encourage them to think of a message to write, what is the purpose of it, write a letter with lots of content. Maybe they always make a similar train/road track with a similar story, always do jigsaws. The wider the variety of activities the more opportunities they have of refining their skills in a broader context.