Children have the right to love, safety, and joy. When that right is protected, attention can be paid to the rights and responsibilities that are specific to experiences of play and learning.
These foundational rights and responsibilities provide a powerful frame of reference for reflecting on individual and organizational practice, design and accountability.
The Rights and Responsibilities of True Play*
Select materials from a wide variety, determine their use and how long to play with them.
Select with whom to play.
Play in large groups, small groups and alone.
Choose not to play.
Support but not direct or interfere with play.
Encourage and support risk, working with one another, finding solutions, and self-pacing.
Provide emotional support and have confidence in children’s capacities and abilities.
Closely observe children’s actions, activities, interests, dilemmas, conflicts, experiments, and problem solving.
Carefully document what they observe.
Time and Space
Play with materials where and when and how they wish.
Move freely within play areas.
Understand that the school is their home, their space to play and learn and grow.
Determine the pace of play.
Ensure that children have expansive time and space to play.
Communicate in their words and actions that the children’s play is the most important activity at school.
Develop a schedule that follows the natural flow of children’s need for play, rest, food, and reflection.
Be provided with multiple opportunities daily to reflect on their experience, discovery, and problem solving.
Interpretation of their own experience is given primary importance.
Engage in daily reflection and careful consideration and organization of their observations of children’s activities.
Facilitate opportunities for children to reflect on their experience.
Allow children to interpret and explain their own experience.
Provide opportunities before and after open play experiences to anticipate possibilities for discovery (through design processes) and reflect on discoveries through the review of documentation.
As many opportunities as possible to give expression to their experience verbally, in pictures, and in text as they are able to begin to use symbolic language.
Cultivate and facilitate multiple ways for children to express the story of their experiences including visually (drawing in Play Stories, experimenting with text and use of symbolic language, with various art materials), verbally, abstractly and concretely.
Access to open-ended materials that do not determine or direct the experience or outcome of play.
Access to materials that are carefully designed, selected, and organized to maximize discovery and problem solving but not lead to specific outcomes or insights.
Access to materials that allow children to challenge themselves at their own level of self-determined risk.
Access to materials that allow children to self-structure their use of the materials.
Access to materials that provide access to the natural world as much as possible.
Responsibility for the care of their materials.
Provide materials that allow and encourage self-determined play as described above.
Develop a deep understanding of how children use and learn as they interact with material elements through careful observation and reflection.
Make adjustments to materials following the children’s interests and activities.
Document children's interactions with materials to share with each other and facilitate reflection with the children.
Support children's introduction to materials to support self-determined play and self-regulated play.
Access to open-ended environments that do not determine or direct the experience or outcome of play, environments that are carefully designed to maximize discovery and problem solving but not lead to specific outcomes or insights.
Access to environments that allow children to challenge themselves at their own level of self-determined risk.
Access to environments that provide access to the natural world as much as possible.
Responsibility for the care of the environment.
Create an environment that allows and encourages self-determined play as described above.
Develop a deep understanding of how the children use and learn as they interact with environmental elements through careful observation and reflection.
Make adjustments to environmental elements following the children’s interests and activities.
Document children's interactions with environmental elements to share with each other and facilitate reflection with the children.
Support children's introduction to the environment to support self-determined play and self-regulated play.
*These rights and responsibilities are described in terms of the early childhood setting, but the words “child” or “children” can be replaced with the words “learner” or “learners,” and the world “adult” can be replaced with the phrase “creator and maintainer of the conditions of learning,” or like description.