Encourage children to lead and make choices

An integral component of child-centred practice is affording children genuine opportunities to engage in decision-making and lead interactions. Engagement in such experiences provides children with the opportunity to develop their emerging self-regulatory skills, as they are required to regulate their own thinking and behaviours, while also considering the needs and perspectives of others. Active involvement in play requires children to be planful and reflective – two skills that are central to self-regulation. In supporting children’s emerging autonomy, educators assist the transition from being externally regulated to more self-regulated individuals.

Scenario: There has been significant pressure placed on staff, from parents, to create a program that is around fostering school-readiness. This has resulted in a largely teacher-led context with only minimal allocated time for free-play. During free play, educators notice that children have a tendency to wander aimlessly, rarely engaging in play for prolonged periods. At the next staff meeting, the educators discuss whether perhaps this time would be better utilised engaging in more child-initiated or teacher-supported activities so as to give the children more direction.



Provide opportunities for children to set their own goals. Goal setting helps children consider their future possibilities, personal desires and needs, as well as the wants and needs of others.

Where choice can appear overwhelming, provide a limited range of choices. Too many choices can be overwhelming to younger children and those with self-regulatory difficulties. In these instances, restricted choice (e.g., from three options) may be better suited to these children’s developmental progress.

Engage children in making plans at the group and individual level. You can make plans for food preparation, a simple science activity, or even what a child would like to do that day. Engage children in planning through open-ended questioning or encourage documenting of plans (e.g., mind mapping, or a ‘passport’ system where children plan their goals and ‘travels’ through the centre). Encourage the children to follow through with and reflect on plans, including discussing reasons for plans changing.

Offer genuine opportunities for children to engage in decision-making. This may be getting children to choose a transition song or activity, helping decide what will be served on the menu, the theme for the home corner, etc.

Provide children opportunities to lead interactions. Where children find tasks difficult, create roles where they may monitor and take responsibility for the process. For example, supervising tidying up, making other children aware when it is time to transition, etc.

Set up the environment in a way that facilitates independent engagement. For instance, set up open-ended resources and activities that allow children to choose and explore. Scaffold children’s engagement in these experiences to extend learning.

Make intentional mistakes so that the children may identify and help resolves these. To encourage children to take appropriate risks (e.g., to attempt something even though they may not immediately be successful), it is important that they see it is perfectly fine to make mistakes. For example, putting resources in the wrong places, leaving resources out and getting things wrong (e.g. in counting, telling a story, holding a book upside down).

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

This principle and associated practices are referenced in the following sources of evidence in the EYLF:

  • High expectations and equity (Principle 3)
  • Learning through play (Practice 3)
  • Children develop their emerging autonomy, inter-dependence, resilience and sense of agency (Outcome 1.2)