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How do you lead by example?

There are so many things that come to mind instantly right? Really simple stuff like using your manners, walking inside, speaking clearly and chewing with your mouth closed. 

But did you automatically think of this one – Play

In your role as an educator you have a unique opportunity to lead by example simply by playing and having fun.

Yes, it’s your job and you’re being paid to do it.  Yes, you have a massive responsibility and duty of care to these children.  Yes, there are policies and legislations and regulations to abide by.  But being and educator is so cool that you can achieve all of the above and still play and have fun!

lead by example-play


Learning through play or play based learning is the foundation of what we do.

You show excitement, curiosity and even nervousness as you climb the ladder to go down the slide.  In this moment the children are watching and learning from you.                           

You might be thinking:

  • ‘Ooh this will be fun. I haven’t done this in ages!’ 
  • ‘I wonder if its high enough to still make my stomach drop or will this give me a wedgie?’
  • ‘Oh I don’t know if this ladder will hold me, maybe i’ll just go back down. Darn it! Little Sammy’s already coming up behind, can’t turn back now! 

Or how about when you take off your shoes and socks and step into the sandpit.  You stop and take a moment to just enjoy that sensory feeling of cool soft sand beneath the soles of your feet and then plonk yourself down amongst the children and begin creating culinary masterpieces with them.  Sand cakes with purple flowers and stick candles.  Pizzas with leaves, rocks, grass and anything else you can find in the sandpit as toppings. (careful with that one folks)

Even better when you ‘try it’ and make that odd eating sound that’s in every educator’s repertoire and I can only describe as a mouth snort.  (You know the one i’m talking about.)

What do the children learn when we play?

Take a moment and think.  When was the last time that you joined in or initiated play? Or how about over a week, how many times did you do this without premeditation?  Without the intent to observe, record, plan or evaluate but simply because it looked like fun and you wanted to be a part of it.

When did the children last invite you to play?  Ask if you’d like a turn on the swing or run past you and yell “you’re it” while giving you an accidental whop. Before racing off in the other direction with their friends and leaving you standing there thinking ‘Do I chase them or not?’

Have you said no or only halfheartedly joined in so often, that they just don’t ask you to play anymore?

I have a fond memory of walking into a seniors room during after school care and unknowingly positioning myself in the centre of a battle.  A boy (10yrs) popped out from behind a cardboard wall and raced to where i was standing. He dropped a wooden block the size of a small block of cheese by my feet then raced back to his hiding place.  I stood there awkwardly thinking ‘What on earth?’   I could hear giggling as I looked down to discover that the block had been wrapped in silver craft tape and was very clearly labelled……..GRENADE!!

When I think back now, I see that my response in that moment was so important.

Option 1 – Call him over and remind him to walk inside and to remove the tape when the game ends.

Option 2 – Smile but continue to my destination (the office)

Option 3 – Slide the grenade across the floor so that it lands flush against the outside of their barricade. (just like in a bond film) Then hustle my not so young self to behind a table conveniently covered with an orange sheet to shield me from view.

I bravely chose option 3.

Behind this table fortress I discovered more children.  Luckily, they were ‘friendlies’ who promptly gave me a rundown of the battle so far. The boys proudly displayed their stash comprising of items from the craft and collage areas, construction shelves, bits and pieces from home corner and again the silver tape. (Thankyou Quicksticks)   I joined in the game until my enemy was collected by his mum and the others slowly lost interest.

Don’t overthink it!

My decision to PLAY created a new relationship with these 8, 9 and 10 year old boys.  I  had made them laugh, made a fool of myself and even come up with some battle plans of my own.  ( I was also fair and a good sport, blowing up and pretending to be dead for the generally expected 5 seconds before coming back to life again.)  It was like they had held a meeting in a tin shed (like The little rascals) and voted that I was not so bad after all.  Our interactions became mutually respecful and when I said no it didn’t lead to your average eye roll or mini tantrum.  We had conversations and agreed on conclusions and decisions together.  

Now, I know we don’t always have 10 minutes up our sleeves to join a battle.  But next time you have the opportunity to join in or to have a go. Before you shove that urge to the back of your mind and continue sentry duty. Think to yourself, Why not? And if there is no legitimate reason popping up then get in there and get amongst it.

 Have a laugh, create a memory and most importantly lead by example – get in and play.



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