I have been asked a lot for play ideas…
So I thought I would start off with a general, all round kind of post about my views on play. There are so many simple things you can do to encourage wonder in your lives!
Often mummas get the idea that they need to be organising play environments. The guilt sets in for not setting up Instagram worthy experiences in order to keep the kids happy and entertained. These things can be lovely. But, they don’t need to take up the bulk of your days or weeks.
Play should be something that is embraced in all aspects of daily life. In fact maybe the word playful might be better in this instance. We can be playful in all of our daily rhythms. Then time doesn’t need to be set aside for play.
How many times do we tell ourselves “But, I don’t have time for that”? 🙋 Well, I am here to tell you don’t need extra hours in your day. You can utilise the precious ones you already have.
It is important to remember that children are forming new neural pathways all the time. Everything they do, and the lives they live go towards the way their brains will be structured. This means that it is far more important to embody a playful way of living. You can do this by using all the hours in the day rather than setting aside “certain times” for play.
An easy way of doing this is by clearing your schedule. Taking it back a notch and making time for connecting as a family, rather than rushing from one activity to the next. Dan Siegel says that:
“with every fun enjoyable experience you give your children while they are with the family, you provide them with positive reinforcement about what it means to be in a loving relationship with others”
and what else could be better than that! Isn’t that what we all want for our children?
Slowing it down
A concept that I have recently been introduced to by Louise Harvey-Zahra, who is a Steiner based teacher and author: is having a combination of breathing-in and breathing-out activities our days. The concept is that children need time to slow down and take a break. Especially in between the rush rush of modern society. Breathing in activities give parents and children time to re-connect and re-set. So everyone has capacity to embrace the breathing-out times of the day (things such as noisy play or social outings). This is especially important for those children or adults who have trouble in overstimulating environments.
Louise explains that children who are rushed from one breathing-out activity to another can become quite demanding for entertainment. Often asking “what are we doing next? “ It is my belief that children are losing that sense of wonder by being over-scheduled. They are not being given the chance to imagine, create and explore.
So what can we do to turn all this around?
To help our children through these highly formative years we need to remember that they are children and not tiny adults. This means having realistic expectations, and giving them the space and the time they need to just be kids.
So what can we do to turn this around?
To help our children through these highly formative years we need to remember that they are children, not tiny adults. This means having realistic expectations, and giving them the space and the time they need to be kids.
Some of the things you can do to create this playfulness in your lives and a sense of un-hurriedness is…
Involving the kids in the day to day activities
The cleaning, washing and cooking are not highly enjoyable to most mums, but these are all things that need to be done. Getting the kids to join in is a way to connect and make it an enjoyable experience for all! For example, when your hanging the washing you can get your little ones to hand you the pegs. They can also have a cardboard box so that they can peg all around the outside – this is an awesome fine motor activity and builds strength in those tiny hands. Rudolf Steiner explains that
“As the muscles of the hand grow firm and strong in performing work for which they are fitted, so the brain and other organs of the physical body are guided along the right lines of development if they receive the right impressions from the environment”
Choosing open ended materials
It is important to create beautiful spaces in your home to encourage play and wonder. However, this doesn’t mean that spending a lot of money or re-arrange your home. In fact, children spend more time making use of loose parts that you can find in the garden or may already have…
Loose parts or open ended materials are items with no specific set of instructions and can be used in multiple ways. It is up to the children to use their innate sense of wonder and imagination to create and build with these materials.
Some of the items may include:
- Stick and twigs
- Seed pods
- Flowers and leaves
- Boxes with lids
- cardboard rolls
- Fabric and felt
- Twine or rope
- Natural blocks
- Sensory play with dried herbs, rice, lentils (this will need to be supervised)
The best thing about these types of resources are they cost little to no money, and most of them you can find at home. You can choose to display them in any way you like. Maybe on a shelf in little baskets or stacked nicely into tubs…. let the kids guide the way and ask them what they would like.
Choosing quality over quantity
While loose parts play a huge part in open ended play, beautifully made, open-ended toys have their place. With this in mind, I encourage you to go for quality over quantity.
When it’s coming up to Christmas or special Birthdays, have a think about items that are multi purpose and serve a wide variety of age groups. Maybe it’s your 4 year olds birthday but you could get something that even your one year old would love playing with. Not only is this beneficial for the children, but more ecologically sustainable and if you chose to buy from someone like Growing kind you are also supporting small business.
What is one thing you can do today to create that sense of wonder and playfulness in your lives? We’d love to hear your idea’s on our Facebook page 🙂
For those of you that haven’t heard I have started running my own Family Daycare Service in Long Jetty on the NSW Central Coast. Click here to find out more 🙂