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Fostering RECE/Child Relationships Through Play

This article is dedicated to all the wonderful Registered Early Childhood Educators I have had the privilege of observing over the past twenty five years who have taken the time to play with the children in their programs.

Every Early Childhood Educator is aware of the importance of using play as a tool to support children’s cognitive, physical, and social emotional development. What is equally important is establishing healthy relationships between the teachers and the children in childcare programs. Why not use play as the vehicle to engage and allow the joint experience to strengthen the bonds between you and the children in your care. Here are some simple tips on how to accomplish this:

Set the Stage

  • We all know about setting the stage when organizing a classroom to best meet the needs of the children but don’t forget about setting the stage to engage.
  • Ensure that play areas are large enough to allow for Early Childhood Educators to join in. 
  • Position pillows, bean bag chairs on floor areas to increase your comfort level. 
  • Ensure there is space at tables for an RECE to join in with the activity.

Organize Your Time Effectively

  • We are all aware of the increasing daily demands on RECE’s so engaging like any other task may take some creative planning. 
  • Establish a plan, a time frame, of how much time you would like to spend playing during the daily program. 
  • Determine with your team partner what play areas or activities each of you would like to focus on within the different routines. 
  • Remember quality time can have more of an impact than quantity of time. So if you can engage in play for 5-7 minutes in the block centre, make sure its 5-7 minutes of your full attention.

Gather Information

  • Be a detective and observe the classroom carefully. 
  • Watch what the children have been interested in lately. 
  • What toys and activities have they been actively seeking out lately? 
  • Listen to their conversations. What topics interest them? 

Get Involved

  • Let your inner child free. 
  • Follow the children’s lead. 
  • Assume a role in the play - a minor role. 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Comment on what is happening in the play. 
  • Add ideas; just be careful not to direct the outcomes of the play. 
  • Add information that will ignite their imagination.


  • Take a few moments to enjoy your play experience. 
  • Make some quick notes if you can, about your playtime, e.g. who interacted well together, who struggled. 
  • Did you learn anything new about the children in the program? 
  • Use the interests and conversations you were a part of for future programming.

Denise Palermo, RECE, Special Needs Resource Consultant ~
The Etobicoke Children’s Centre