Teaching independence in a play-based classroom

It is through play that our students practice and master new skills; put into action their own ideas; figure out how to solve problems; work in cooperation and collaboration with each other, and the list goes on. Play is the means by which real and meaningful learning takes place but there is a need for the teacher to be an active participant in the play-based classroom as well.

Play is the means by which real and meaningful learning takes place.

Here’s a glimpse at how you can let your students master new skills in the classroom.


So what is the teacher’s role in a play based classroom? What can the teacher do to support play without taking over play? These are important questions so I thought I would share a little bit about what the teachers do in our classroom during the first few weeks of school.

Our primary focus is to promote independent thinking and doing

Right from the first day of school, one of our top priorities is to spend time teaching our students about our classroom and helping them understand how to do things in the classroom all by themselves. Things like putting a backpack in a cubby, finding their name on the wall to answer our Question of the Day, washing hands, and putting artwork away in the drying rack.

As we take the time to teach the children these different processes, we can begin to take a step back and let the children put into practice what they are learning. Some of these processes take time for the children to catch on to but within a few short weeks, our students are already getting the hangs of things.

Our focus on building independence isn’t to control or restrict our students but rather to build competence and confidence so that the children can gradually be given complete freedom to explore all that we provide around the classroom.

As our students build their understanding of the classroom set-up, daily routines, classroom materials, and the different processes we provide, they begin to come together as a community and care about each other and the classroom too. Our goal in teaching is to ultimately remove ourselves from being needed but first, we have to spend time cultivating a constructive sense of ownership and independence.

We support constructive play by giving our students the need-to-know information about their role in the classroom. As the children build their understanding and skills then we take a step back and observe where we are needed next.

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing our students take ownership over the things and the processes we provide around the classroom.

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Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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