August 28, 2010

Five Ways To Create More Play

Open-ended and creative childhood play is a hot topic on my mind these days. With two daughters, I find family life to be most content when the play pistons are firing. Our typical playtime includes the living room rug with plenty of characters and trinkets; out in the patio with glitter and glue; or down at the park with shovels and buckets. For me, peace comes when I see what my children can create with play.

Fairy heart wands, - one for each member of the family. I was more peaceful 'after' we had cleaned up the mess from this particular project, however.

Although most of my current 'online' time is now spent over at Moms With Apps, that doesn't mean that I've lost my analog sense of self. As a recent foray into the news media mentions, the goal (well, my goal) is for the digital platform to be a springboard for real-life activities, learning experiences, and conversations.

Here are some habits we've formed to encourage play in our family:
  1. TIME: "Let's Pretend" takes time. Rushing out right after school, five days a week, doesn't leave time for a jeweled parade of baby ponies (which is usually the case in our house). Choosing who is going to be which pony, decorating them with jewels, and then parading them around the house is at least a 60 to 120 minute affair.
  2. FRIENDS AND/OR SIBLINGS: Kids are like instant cake mixes. They are easy to get going when you just add water (i.e., more kids). My kids can be meandering around, and as soon as a friend comes over, BOOM, it's like a spark goes off and all of a sudden the easel is up with a full school room and bossy teacher at the helm.
  3. ART SUPPLIES: Easy to access art supplies that include 1) blank white paper, 2) bucket of markers, 3) tape on a sturdy dispenser, 4) scissors. Additions like glue, glitter, ribbons, envelopes, paper bags, boxes, stickers will be put to use as well. But 1 through 4 are mandatory.
  4. PROPS: Basically, anything in your house that a favorite set of characters can  interact with. Let's see, I've seen shoe box lids, fabric, bowls, chop sticks, and Tupperware used for boats, cannons, blankets, and bedrooms. And as for the characters, I actually think it's OK to give your child access to multiple characters in a toy series. When my youngest first got into My Little Pony, I initially thought one or two ponies should be enough. Why was she asking for more? Didn't she appreciate what she had? Of course not! How can you play Goo Bandits with only two bad ponies? You need some good guys too, right? Sometimes, it does indeed take a village!
  5. FOOD: "Ouch, stop it!" is kid speak for "I'm hungry!". Get a good, healthy meal in your kids, and "Ouch, stop it!" usually turns back to "Let's pretend".
I would welcome any comments or additions to this list. More ideas are better in this territory.


Jitka Adeleke said...

I miss girly play, now I have two boys here and it is ALL about shooting and fighting. The older one is willing to paint using poster paints and do paper origami providing the result is a jet, tank, freighter or similar. Also modelling clay can come handy and alas! he made soldiers, alliens or jedis. You get the picture. But otherwise I agree that the pretend game is the most important part of the early childhood.

Lynette said...

Amen! It sounds like it must be pretty nice to be a kid in your house with such a perceptive mom at the helm. By the way, literally adding water can often transform play to a whole new level, if the activity and location permits! wooden toys, pretend play, and play food for preschool! said...

I am writing a post right now about encouraging storytelling, language development, and imagination at I think you'll like it! My twin 3 year olds are all about pretend play right now and it's so much fun to listen to them. We love art projects and Mommy is not very crafty so it's always good to see what other Moms are doing! Thanks for a great post!

Wisconsin Parent said...

We just went on a road trip to the south. With all their school supplies already marked way lower than for us Yankees, we re-stocked and hauled it back up with us. Loved the wands!

Tiffany T said...

See? You are a cool crafty Mom who has helped cultivate your children's imagination. Today my daughter drew varying sized circles on a paper in red and gave it to me proudly. When I asked her what it was she said, "These are tunnels that when you enter you go to the place in your head." That's deep... or a nice way of saying, "They're just circles, Mom."

Unknown said...

What a great post.
In our family (2 girls 8 and 4) there is a lot of family time since we both work from home (or coffe shops), so the kids come from school around 13:00 and then:
- Friends coming with them from school
- TV - not a bad word here - we watch with them and if not, then we know what they watch and they are quite aware to the content they are watching
- iPad - playing together or by themselves
- Arts - coloring, mashing, glueing - everything goes
- Cooking - in our house the kitchen is the place to be - we cook together, bake
- Pictures - the girls love looking at family albums
- Dance - there is music a lot of the time and the girls just dance and perform

I think that family time is so important because at the end of the day, when we grow up - this plays a major part in our Relationships DNA.

My 2 cents


budget accommodation said...

Lol, I have the same issue with my little nephew. I spent 20 minutes in the kitchen because I was "at school" my with my sister Melissa (a doll). I don't know where they get all that imagination from...they are cute though!