There are lots of different ways that children learn, one of these is through play. Research has shown that play is crucial for development and learning. It can help children become a self-regulated learner and encourages them to push themselves to the limit of their abilities.
These tips can be adapted for children of all ages. My children’s ages vary from aged 2 to 16! How I play with my 2 year old is different to how I play with my 7 year old, however I do still follow these tips.
- Organisation – I think being organised is important for a successful play session. I like to offer my children structured play activities as well as lots of free play. We spend lots of time playing with what they choose to do, whether that’s colouring in, pretend tea parties, singing and dancing, but I also try to plan one play activity which is more focused. I like to think about what I would like to do and get all the resources I need ready the night before. This is probably where the teacher in me comes out.
- Allow your child/children to explore by themselves. You still need to supervise them but don’t be too obtrusive and take over. Watch how they play with different toys/activities. Obviously if the play becomes unsafe then you need to intervene but otherwise sit back and observe. Allow your child to discover by themselves
- Time – give yourself plenty of time for play. Put your phone down, turn the television off and really engage in the play with your child. You’ll both get so much more from it. I’m not saying to do this all of the time, we are all busy and are often multi-tasking but try and focus on play for a least 20 minutes a day with your child.
- Communication is so so important. Even if your child isn’t yet talking, still talk to them. Talk about what you can see, what you can hear, what you are doing. Sing songs and read stories to them. They really will learn so much from this.
- Toy rotation – sometimes having too many toys out for a child to choose from can be daunting for them. Choose a few for the day and put all others away out of sight if you can. Doing this keeps play exciting and makes sure that the toys at the bottom of the toy box get played with too.
- Toy swap – when Covid allows, swap toys with your family members and friends. This way your child gets a variety of toys to play with and it doesn’t cost you a penny! You can also see what you child does and does not like and then consider buying their favourites.
- Tidying up – I have always encouraged my children to tidy up after themselves from an early age. I try to keep all of their toys organised so that it makes tidying up easier. E.g. all dolls in one box, teddy bears in another, art supplies in another etc. When it is nearing the end of play, I give them a 10 minute warning. I then count down at regular intervals so that they know how long they have left – 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. I find that doing this results in less resistance from them as they have time to finish their activity and it is no surprise to them that they need to pack away. When it is time to stop and tidy up, I play our tidy up song. For us that is the Benny Hill theme song. My older children even play it on the Alexa themselves now. You can choose any song for this - upbeat music works well. We then have fun as we rush around to the music to tidy up. Obviously, my younger children don’t tidy up as thoroughly as my older children, but I praise any effort made.
I hope that you have found some of these tips useful. Feel free to let me know if you give any of these a go or if you’d like to share any of your own play tips.
If you'd like some simple ideas that you can do at home, check out my Facebook group - Mini Senses Community.