Only in the 20th century has play been so strongly associated with a toy rather than an activity. But, play does not need to center around the newest, most expensive gadget. Play doesn’t have to cost a lot. KidsPark “is play without batteries”, according to Arlington, TX KidsPark center owners, Beth Christie and Heather Alanis. Child initiated play lets children explore, test, create and follow their own interests. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and United Nations High Commission for Human Rights confirm play is an essential part of a child’s development.
Many years ago I worked for Lakeside Toys. We held children’s focus groups to see what attracted and held their attention. I observed children playing in a co-operative environment – kids building on each other’s stories and insights. The activities that held their attention offered:
• new options each time
• many routes to take – not just a “right one”.
• objects in a variety of colors, textures and shapes
We incorporate this into KidsPark’s layout and selection of activities. Check-out our Pinterest pages for ideas. Create your own play-scape at home.
TIME — play happens outside of lesson plans, appointments and routines. Let it initiate by leaving blocks of unscheduled time for children to be playful and engage their imagination.
ART STATION – play needs a certain amount of choice. There must be room for using things and doing things in new ways. Put out an Art box and see what happens! Fill a cardboard box, or storage bin with:
water color paints
recycle paper tubes
For older children add:
fancy edged scissors
STORAGE – If it may take more than 1 sitting to finish, start the project on a tray or board that can be moved out of the way if you are using a kitchen or dining room table. I prefer to move it into the child’s room so it is a reminder to finish the project (else it might sit in the corner of the living room forever). It also makes the child responsible for its safety.
INDOOR PLAY – The simplest is a bubble bath with lots of toys. Set up a cozy clubhouse by draping a sheet or bring in a large box. Turn off the lights and play with a flashlight and shadows. Act out a favorite story or TV show.
OUTDOOR PLAY – be playful. Simple things will engage children’s imagination and senses. Try: Bubbles (Dawn works great); pail of water, ladle and measuring cups; dirt, scoops and plastic containers
I hope you have a ton of fun watching, and maybe joining, your child in play. I’m getting off my soapbox now, so I can play with it! It could become a… robot, a go-cart, a playhouse ….