Skip to Main Content

Make Way for Play! Embracing opportunities for child-directed play

Resources for supporting play in early childhood environments, a supplement to 2019-2020 teacher training.


"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children, play is serious learning."

Fred Rogers


Children learn about the world around them through play.  How can adults best support them?  Are adults getting in their way?  Use this guide as a companion to the "Make Way for Play" workshop presented by Little Read Wagon.

Conversations During Guided Play: Open-ended Questions and Prompts

Asking children open-ended questions allows them freedom to answer without having to come up with what an adult considers to be the correct answer.  Conversations are extended and richer because these kinds of questions allow the child to provide information that they believe is relevant, not necessarily giving an answer the adult is expecting.  These kinds of child-adult exchanges support serve-and-return, or conversational turns, a key component to building brain connectivity.  Keep in mind that these questions are best asked in reflective times, not by interrupting a child who is focused during play.     

  • What’s happening here?                                  
  • What do you notice?                                        
  • I wonder why...                                                               
  • ...if that happened to you...                                     
  • How did they...?                                                 
  • What will happen next?                                   
  • What did they do?

Contrast these open-ended questions with closed-ended questions such as, "What color is it?" or "What shape is it?".  Closed-ended questions have one right answer and it is usually an answer that the adult already has in mind. 

Recommended Books

Loose parts books

Anji Play: Returning the Right to Play to Children - An approach from Anji County, China