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The Plan for Play: Putting your child in charge

Children who play more are healthier, happier and more successful at school. Of course they are! Play is the language of children - a developmental necessity. It is through play that they learn to understand themselves, one another, and the world around them. Play breeds curiosity and creativity, builds social and communication skills, self-regulation. And it has always been that way. 

But how often in today’s world, does play become the thing that children do when they have finished doing the other, more important stuff?

When it comes to playtime, there are two broad categories: adult-directed or child-directed. 

Adult-directed play is so appealing to us grown ups. Give them a puzzle, a board game or the latest V-Tech educational electronics, and we feel like we’re winning - the children are playing AND learning! 

Child-directed play is more stressful isn’t it? When the children are in charge it can be messy, noisy and sometimes a bit dangerous! The Playmobil Zoo is so much more… reassuring. 

As it turns out though, when it comes to child development, we should learn to leave the children to it. Jean Piaget himself, the Swiss psychologist renowned for his work on child development, was clear that child-led play empowers children to make choices and learn from their mistakes. They need long, interrupted periods of play and exploration. That’s great - but how are busy families supposed to find the time?

At Radnor, play is built into our day. Not just during breaktimes when children have the freedom to explore Beechwalk, climbing trees, making dens and digging streams for the rainwater, but throughout their day. Forest School lessons last for 90 minutes, giving ample opportunity for some adult-inspired activity, but also for the children to explore our large woodland with friends - creating mini-adventures of their own. Drama, sports and music lessons give them opportunities to explore what their bodies can achieve, and to connect with one another on a spiritual level, under the gentle guidance of their teachers or ‘play professionals.’ 

Our new Radnor Prep Archway curriculum, launching in September 2024, offers even greater opportunity for child-led discovery both in and out of the classroom. 

Philippa Lang is Head of The Prep School.

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