Create a plan which includes a balance of child-initiated and adult-led play opportunities for: physical play, creative play, imaginative play, sensory play

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.2: Plan, lead and review play opportunities which support children’s learning and development in relation to current frameworks
Learning outcome: Be able to plan play opportunities
Assessment criteria: Create a plan which includes a balance of child-initiated and adult-led play opportunities for: physical play, creative play, imaginative play, sensory play


For this assessment criterion, you will be required to put the knowledge you learned in the previous unit into practice by creating plans that include both child-initiated and adult-led play opportunities. Your plans should use a range of play types, including physical play, creative play, imaginative play and sensory play.

To begin, it is recommended to have a discussion with your supervisor to clarify how your setting usually plans activities. Planning frequency can vary between settings – for example, one setting may plan weekly, whilst others plan monthly or semesterly. Your setting may also have learning themes every term (e.g. Christmas, Autumn, Summer etc.), which may need to be integrated into your plans.


Your planning should also take into account the age and stage of development of each child, as well as the interests of individual children and inclusivity considerations (such as children with additional needs). Both indoor and outdoor activities should also be considered.

As discussed in the previous unit, children benefit from adult-led and child-initiated play. Adult-led activities provide opportunities for children to learn things that may not be possible if left to their own devices, whilst child-initiated activities, give children opportunities to learn through their own experience and exploration. Child-initiated activities also allow practitioners to learn about the children in their care through observation, which can facilitate future planning.


Babies and younger children usually require more adult-led play activities than older children.

Below, we have provided examples of activities for each of the four types of play.


Physical play

Adult-led physical play activities for babies and younger children include building and knocking down block towers, rolling or throwing, blowing bubbles and playing peek-a-boo. Child-initiated activities include walkers and push/pull toys, rattles, heuristic play and simply letting the child explore the setting and resources independently.

For older children, adult-led physical activities include dancing and rhymes/songs with actions, building, walks and scavenger hunts. Child-initiated activities include playing football, hula hoops, throwing/catching and skipping.


Creative play

Adult-led creative play activities for babies and younger children include painting and other mark-making, shakers/drums and glueing. Mark-making can also be child-initiated if the right resources are accessible to the children.

For older children, adult-led activities can include mark-making, arts and crafts and clay/plasticine modelling. Again, these activities can also be child-initiated if the resources are accessible to them. Playing with Duplo bricks can also get a child’s creative juices flowing.


Imaginative play

Adult-led imaginative activities for babies and younger children include playing with dolls, teddies and puppets, wearing masks and talking in funny voices. These activities can also be child-initiated.

Older children may enjoy playing with small-world sets or role-playing (which can include dressing up).


Sensory play

Adult-led sensory play activities for babies and young children include playing with water, sand, slime and cornflour. They can also be child-initiated as they can explore the different textures, smells and tastes independently.

Older children can also benefit from similar sensory activities that provide them with opportunities to have different sensory experiences. Adult-led sensory activities can be more complex and include making slime, dough or cornflour before playing with it.

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