My favorite Albert Einstein quote must be this one…
‘Play is the highest form of research.’ It is just SO true. The art of ‘play’ is truly a magical thing! Play gives a child an opportunity to develop so many skills, from creativity and imagination to dexterity and both cognitive and emotional strength.
Play gives a child an opportunity to develop so many skills, from creativity and imagination to dexterity and both cognitive and emotional strength. A child that is encouraged to explore the many different types of play learns how to engage and interact with the world around them in a meaningful and appropriate way, and constantly discovers new and exciting things about themselves and their environment. Play, of course, is also great fun!
As I discussed in my article called Play and Development, there are 5 main types of play, each with their own benefits (and challenges). To supplement that article, I decided to include a post with some ideas for each. Enjoy!
Constructive Play Ideas
Most arts and crafts or similar activities would fall into this category, and are very helpful in the development of both creativity and fine motor skills. Here are a few more ideas.
- Fort building – I remember doing this when we were kids, pushing the couches together and grabbing all the pillows and blankets that we could find! So much fun!
- Fairy village in the garden – my mother used to do this one with us when we were kids, and wow! what a great time we had. Just get out into the garden and let the kids build their own little village. We used to use flowers, pebbles, twigs and leaves, but any little extras you have around the house can be used. (I will actually add a separate post on this one later with more details)
- Tower building – this can be done using anything from around the house, such as plastic plates and cups or even empty coffee cans or Tupperware if you want to try add some real height!
- Cardboard tube construction activities – try cutting them into rings and getting the little ones to paint or color them, then thread into unique necklaces or paper chains for special occasions.
Motor or physical play ideas
These activities usually target specific groups of muscles or skills, such as balance or hand-eye co-ordination. Here are a few of my favorites…
- Egg and spoon race – this is a great game to play outside in the fresh air, all you need is a spoon and a hard-boiled egg for each child. A ribbon across the finish line is a nice touch, however, some toilet paper tied between two trees works just as well and is even safer.
- Toe pick up – this is one that can be done inside, and works with any number of kids. everyone takes off their socks and takes turns trying to pick up small toys using only toes. Have a basket in the middle and try drop the toys inside, and maybe give instructions such as all the blue toys first.
- Simon says – another great game for both inside or out, and a favorite for many children.
Social play ideas
If you are the parent of an only child or children with a large age gap (as is my situation), you may want to try find a good, clean park or a play zone near your home. Social play helps children develop their human interaction skills and helps with the eventual transition to nursery or primary school too.
- Ring-a-Rosie or similar – games that include music or singing and actions such as holding hands and clapping can be extremely enjoyable for younger children, and introduce your little one to appropriate physical interactions.
- Outside water or bubble play – get the kids to work as a team by giving simple instructions such as ‘let’s see if the 3 of you can burst all these bubbles I’m going to blow’.
- Pass the parcel – this game is great for teaching children the social skill of sharing, however, it may require some careful thought on how to handle the issue of the prize at the end. My suggestion would be to use a prize that can be easily shared, such as a packet of candy or another item that can then be used in a group game, such as a bottle of bubbles.
Structured or guided play ideas
These kinds of activity usually involve a parent (or older sibling) giving some instruction and taking an active role in the game. Alternatively, these activities have a specific goal, and teach children the basic skill of problem-solving. With older children, board games or formal sports type activities can serve the same purpose.
- Soft toy sorting – this activity can be done with children as young as 18 months, and basically involves the child sorting the soft toys into different groups. Depending on your little one’s level (ie color names, shape names etc) you could give basic instruction such as asking them to bring all the blue toys to you or to put them into a basket.
- Age-appropriate board games – nowadays it is possible to find games for all ages. This could be a great way to pass a little time with your little one while helping them become familiar with the concept of rules.
- Age-appropriate online or electronic games – while some people might find the idea of letting their little one loose on the computer a little daunting, it is hard to dispute the fact that there are a great many new and wonderful option, even for younger children, available out there. I will be doing an article on this soon, so keep your eyes peeled for it!
Fantasy play ideas
Fantasy play is important in the development of creativity and problem solving, as well as in the formation of social skills and the understanding of human interaction. Luckily, little minds seem to be very open to the idea of fantasy play, and this can easily become one of your child’s favorite ways to pass some time…
- dress up – one of the best things that you as a parent can invest in is a dress-up box and a few basics. I would suggest a dress-up doctor or chef outfit, funny glasses, princess crowns or fireman hats. This is another thing that I will be looking at in more detail though, so don’t worry about it too much at this stage!
- fairy village – this activity is great for fantasy play as well. Just get out into the garden with a few bits and bobs and let the kids build their own little village. We used to use flowers, pebbles, twigs and leaves, but any little extras you have around the house can be used.
Well, there you have it…I hope you’ve found these ideas useful.
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