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 there 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 is laying down pushing a train or car around with just noises or very little language, or always making you a cup of tea, playing the same scenario with a doll, this can probably be deemed as low level playing. Until your child is mobile and engaged, narrating a story they have created (not repeating a story they have watched), they will not be able to write it in an English lesson.
Each day your child can create a new story with different resources or they can build and extend what they did the day before.
Play for several days growing from one idea.
With your child have a quick recap on the activities they chose to do last week. In an ideal world we like our children to participate in a varied choice of activities. This ensures balanced learning as children then apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of situations, more closely imitating real life.
By now you should be becoming more familiar and confident with playing alongside and with your child. Your child should now be able to extend the play and the story over 3 or 4 days. Please note this is not the same as repeating the play from the day before. You’re looking for your child to be improving, adding props / resources or describing what happens next. If your child is having difficulty with this you can try playing your own version of their game alongside them, thinking your thoughts and ideas out loud. Sentence starters such as ‘I think I might.....’ or ‘I wonder.....’ work well. Your child will either join in with you, or copy your ideas at a later stage.
As your child becomes more accomplished at narrating a story as they play you can write down exactly what they say in the order that they say it. You can then read it aloud to them while they act it out. This approach highlights to both of you anything that doesn’t make sense, repetitions etc which you can then address. Reading their story from the day before will help give a structure to their extension. Vital skills for successful writing.
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.