Scaffolding Play


Teaching seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery. – Franklin Habit

When this class of children started, it jolted us. They seemed much younger developmentally than any other preschool class I had ever taught. While they are slowly learning to trust us, each other and themselves, there are certain areas that will take more time to develop. One area we are focusing on is scaffolding their social play.

Right now their desire to play with each other and socialize is front and center, but their ability to do so isn’t. Most days they just chase each other around until someone gets hurts, then they start over again.


In play a child always behaves beyond their average age, above their daily behavior. In play it is as though they were a head taller than themselves. – Lev Vygotsky

I noticed this morning a bit of the running around and hurting each other beginning so I turned on the light projector and placed a colored tile on top. I moved up tile up, down, left and right while children started to become drawn to it and tried to chase it all around.

Before you knew it they were working together to try and get to the tile, opening and closing the cabinet doors and discovering that the tile went inside the closet when they opened the door, and coming up with solutions together like throwing things at the tile to “get” it. Eventually, they asked if they could try so I moved the projector to their level and put out a whole bowl of tiles and they took turns moving tiles around for each other, and for me.


We plan to continue creating experiences such as this as a way to scaffold their play. A few others ways we play to scaffold their social play right now:

  • Initiate play experiences and slowly pull ourselves out of them
  • Introduce games that encourage cooperate play
  • Limit toys that aren’t open ended
  • Break off into multiple small groups, sometimes were a purpose behind the small group such as going to the store, cooking, spicy work, going for a walk, etc.
  • Mixing up the children’s play partners in the small groups so they get to interact with different children

I have a feeling this year will be long and trying, and will also teach me quite a bit. I already find myself going back to old articles and books to brush up on best practices, and trying to push myself to stay focused. This, is our first step in our long year together.



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