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My TA has been talking to me today about some reading she has done about role-play (she is doing some research into learning through role-play for her early years education degree). She said that she had read in a number of journal articles and books that adults should only intervene in role-play when they need to introduce something new or when there are problems e.g. arguing etc. All other times this should be completely the children's domain unless the adult is invited into their world.

I am fully aware of the need to intervene in a sensitive way and not to take-over the children's play but I wasn't aware that we shouldn't really be intervening at all.

Is this something that other people have heard of? Could anyone explain further?


Green Hippo x

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There is a good article about role play on the forum.....you can find it here Revisiting Imaginative Play


I took the following from it but do read the article in it's entirety as it is a good read :o

Engaging in ‘role-play’


There is no methodology for knowing when and how to intervene constructively. Sometimes we can make mistakes. It requires sensitivity and good observational skills. You need to judge the right moment to ‘step in’ without the children feeling you are encroaching on their territory. Initially it is important to watch children as they use the role-play area. They need to know that you approve of what they are doing. By careful observation you can determine whether the children are ready to accept you into their ‘make-believe’ world or not. It is important to build up trust perhaps over a few weeks if you have not been in the habit of taking any interest in what they are doing.


I agree with the article that there should be a mix and adult intervention should add something. There is a line though, I have myself invited myself into a children's role play and without intent taken over and then found myself sitting in the role play area on my own while the children have either dispersed or more pointedly taken the same game into another area xD

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Hi there,


we discussed this the other day and came to the conclusion that it depends on what you call intervention. Playing alongside with the hope of being drawn in and with a couple of sensitive ideas which could help extend and develop play, could be constuctive, but only if the practitioner has the understanding that if they are not welcome, or seem to be disturbing/altering the play then they should be prepared to leave.


We felt that some children were more than capable of developing their own rules and furthering their learning through play, and that they weren't too comfy having adults nearby, but that this needed to be balanced as there are times that the adults need to lead play and to help extend concepts etc too, planning plays a large part, but needs to be around the children's interests.


Hope that helps,

Spiral :-)

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Sorry, thought I had replied.. obviously not..


we never intervened or joined in role play unless invited..


I always think that no matter how sensitive an adult in in any area they can and will influence a way an area is used.. just being there changes the way children will use an area, even if not interacting.. we used to find that many children would open up and be very creative in the area.. put an adult in and they tended to follow the adult or often stop and move away..not all of course but it was an area they could experiment and be 'at home' with recreating their own experiences.. we knew who sat to do the ironing, who liked to dry up, those who left washing up to drain, and all sorts of things about their own family life by watching the children in the area.. we learnt so much observing, adding and letting them 'get on with it'.


if introducing something new or different they had no experience of we would join in and start the play but then back off as they became involved, unless they invited us..


They did often ask us to join them so we joined in with their ideas and play following their lead..


it was the way I was originally trained and found it worked well, it was only when they were misusing the area and doing the throw it all around, or dump it all in the middle of the floor that we intervened and joined without being asked..

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Thanks for the replies everyone - it's interesting to hear how everyone approaches role-play in terms of adult intervention.

We try to be sensitive in all our intervention with the children during CI play and are of course aware of the negative impact of too much intervention or at the wrong time but think this will make us even more aware of when to interact!

Thanks, I will pass on your thoughts and advice xx

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Reflecting on this, I think it also depends on the age of the children: we had a visit from the local PCSO the other day & 3 of the 2 year olds didn't want to listen so went to the home corner which is right next to where the other children were sitting listening.


Knowing the 2 years olds in question, I knew that while 1 of them might well be able to play there on their own, the 3 of them would need adult support to allow the others to use it. So I sat with them and used my quiet voice to comment on what they were doing - and these 3 children who can be hard work at times did some wonderful sharing and interacting that they initiated. They needed me to be there to support them, in a way I wouldn't with older children with no additional needs, but it clearly showed how the role of the well trained & experienced practitioner can make a difference.


I say that not to be boastful :o , but some of my other staff would have tried to force them to come and 'listen', resulting in their disrupting the session for the 25 children who did want to listen & participate...


I also have 1 little girl whose statement says she needs someone to support her in role play so that she is able to learn how to do role play with her peers. So that needs very sensitive handling, to give her the support she needs to facilitate her interactions with her peers, without taking over the work and directing all the children...

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