By now, most of us know that play is essential to the full development of children. Play teaches children social skills, patience, develops creativity, resilience, decreases stress and is just plain fun. However, in the world of soccer practice, piano lessons and school work, play can get squeezed out by more structured activities. Some parents feel unsure how to facilitate play so I have listed a few ways to get you started. Children are naturals so just follow their lead, help them take it a step farther and remember HAVE FUN!
1. Put on a show. Start with a basic storyline, dress up and act it out. Remember it is more important to creatively portray a character than to stick to a plot or script.
2. Get out the shaving cream in the tub. Let the kids draw and write on the walls. Buy a big bag of rice and hide little toys in it. Let your children feel their way to identifying the objects.
3. Have a “take apart box” for broken phones, radios, small appliances. Rebuild the items with creative new functions. Consider safety goggles for this activity.
4. Make a fort. Large appliance boxes are a good start but blankets can work just as well. Tell stories in the fort.
5. Play with blocks and dolls. Too much plastic requires little imagination and does not promote creativity. Think open ended, child directed play.
6. Go outside! Play hide and seek, go on a treasure hunt, make a seasonal craft, play in the puddles or play flashlight tag. The possibilities are endless to an open mind!
7. Turn off the TV and video games. They do not promote creative play.
8. Follow your child’s lead. For example, most children love to “teach.” Set up a school with seats, students (bunny, doggie, brother, sister) and a teacher. What will the children learn about? What happens when one child misbehaves? For the motor oriented child, play “Simon Says” for recess. The options are endless.
9. Write a story together. Include illustrations by your child. Staple it together and make copies to share. Could this be made into a play?
10. Give the gift of time. Creativity needs time to emerge and is stilted if every second of your child’s life is scheduled. When my children tell me they are bored, I usually respond with “I am so happy because now you have time to really create something! What are you going to do?” There is usually some eye rolling but ultimately they create their own fun, something that would not have happened if the time had been planned for them.