Nannies can actively support play by giving permission for children to play, allowing time for play, valuing playtime, creating safe environments for play, providing appropriate play materials, engaging children during play and allowing for child-led play.
Nannies can also ensure that children have adequate access to a wide variety of play materials. For example, when age appropriate toys are stored in bins on the floor, rather than up out of reach, children are given the freedom to explore and choose what they wish to play with.
Nannies do not always need to participate in children’s play. By supervising play, nannies can allow children to explore and learn during independent play times. Nannies should strive to find balance between creating opportunities for both adult-led and child-led play times.
By observing children at play nannies can determine if and when it is appropriate to join in. When participating in children’s play, nannies can work to operate in the role the child creates for her. For example, if a child asks the nanny to be the sister while playing house, she can accept and play that role. Nannies can also engage the children in conversation during play, describing activities and encouraging children to solve problems.
During infancy, nannies can provide a safe environment and age-appropriate toys to encourage sensorimotor exploration. During the toddler years, nannies can provide safe equipment that encourages thinking, learning and imaginative play. During the preschool years, nannies can help children problem solve and negotiate.
How a nanny interacts with children during play can affect their learning and development. Nannies should see their role in play as supportive and not try to take over and direct play too closely. The nanny’s role should not be to takeover play, but instead to become a welcome partner in play. When nannies take over play or become too directive, the children may play at a lower level or lose interest in the activity. For example, if a nanny insists that a block structure has to be built with red colored blocks and the child wants to use all colors, the child may become disinterested in play.