top of page

What is "child led learning" and how do you make sense of following a toddler's interest?

Child-led play lies at the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach, honoring children as capable and active learners who construct knowledge through their play experiences. By giving children the freedom to explore their interests, collaborate with peers, and express their ideas, child-led play fosters creativity, critical thinking, social-emotional development, and a deep sense of ownership over learning, making it a powerful and essential component of early childhood education in the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

But during child-led play, teachers adopt the role of facilitator, observer, and guide to ensure that all children have opportunities for progression through developmental milestones. Here are some strategies that teachers use to be involved at a high level while maximizing off of the child's curiosities :

  1. Observe and assess: Teachers carefully observe children during play to gain insights into their interests, strengths, and areas for growth. This allows them to identify where each child is developmentally and tailor their support accordingly.

  2. Provide a stimulating environment: Teachers create an environment rich in materials, resources, and open-ended activities that promote various areas of development. This encourages children to explore and engage in play that supports their progression through different milestones.

  3. Offer scaffolding: While respecting child-led play, teachers can provide targeted support when needed. They can offer prompts, ask open-ended questions, or introduce new materials or ideas that extend children's thinking and challenge them to progress further.

  4. Individualize experiences: Teachers differentiate their interactions and interventions based on each child's needs. They may create small group activities or one-on-one moments to target specific developmental goals and provide appropriate support and guidance.

  5. Foster peer interactions: Teachers facilitate opportunities for peer interactions and collaborations during child-led play. These interactions allow children to learn from and with each other, expanding their social skills, communication, and cooperation.

  6. Reflect and plan: Teachers use their observations and ongoing assessments to reflect on children's progress and plan future activities or experiences that support their developmental milestones. This helps ensure a balanced and holistic approach to child-led play.

So, are our two-year-olds engaged in a "yes" day from 8-5PM? Absolutely not. 

Do we prioritize children reaching all of their age-appropriate milestones?

For SURE (or we wouldn't be in business!)

And there are a ton of other myths that adults believe when they first hear about following the child's interests to teach.

We want you to check them out:

Myth: Child-led play lacks structure and discipline.

Debunked: Child-led play can be structured and disciplined within the framework of clear expectations and boundaries set by teachers. It allows children to develop self-regulation skills, make choices, and engage in purposeful play that supports their holistic development.

Myth: Child-led play is chaotic and lacks educational value.

Debunked: Child-led play is rich in educational value as it promotes cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. It provides opportunities for problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and the application of academic concepts in meaningful contexts.


Myth: Child-led play wastes time that could be spent on formal instruction.

Debunked: Child-led play is not a waste of time but a vital part of learning. It fosters intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and a love for learning, which ultimately enhances children's engagement, retention, and overall academic success.


Myth: Child-led play is only about fun and lacks rigor.

Debunked: Child-led play can be intellectually rigorous, promoting higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. It allows children to explore complex concepts, engage in deep inquiry, and develop a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Myth: Child-led play only benefits social and emotional development, not academic learning.

Debunked: Child-led play integrates social, emotional, and cognitive domains, supporting the development of language, literacy, numeracy, and other academic skills. It provides a holistic learning experience that nurtures the whole child.


Myth: Child-led play hinders classroom management and control.

Debunked: Child-led play, when supported by skilled teachers, promotes self-regulation, independence, and responsibility. It allows children to learn how to make choices, solve conflicts, and contribute to a positive classroom community.

Myth: Child-led play is only for younger children and becomes irrelevant as children grow older.

Debunked: Child-led play is beneficial across all age groups. As children grow older, it evolves into more complex and sophisticated forms, fostering critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills that are vital for success in the modern world. There is no age-limit for doing what you love, loving what you do.

Myth: Child-led play does not align with standardized testing and academic requirements.

Debunked: Child-led play can be intentionally designed to align with academic standards and learning goals. It provides opportunities for authentic assessment, demonstrating children's understanding and application of knowledge in meaningful contexts.

welcome to the fam.

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • Amazon - Black Circle
  • Pinterest - Black Circle
bottom of page