Children these days have more toys then ever before, so why do we still stress about how to keep them entertained? The answer is simple, we don't have to!
Take away the toys and give children the freedom to explore and create without interruption.
Photo: Anitapeppers, Morguefile.com
In our fast paced world, kids are trying to balance school, extra curricular activities, homework, out of hours care, sleep and eating with play featuring lower and lower on the list of priorities.
For children, play is not just a fun thing to do to fill time. It is an absolutely crucial part of their development. Not just for preschoolers, but for junior primary children too. Children learn through play until around age 7. (Whitebread, Bingham 2013)
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ALL play is educational, you don't need special toys, apps or computer programs. Children get a lot more value from open ended objects that have multiple purposes and being in an environment where they can explore, make mess, imagine and create.
So how do we encourage play?
It requires the carer to embrace the knowledge that children are absolutely capable of creating and implementing extraordinary ideas all on their own. What a child needs, is the support to do so. When a child asks you how something works, don't give them the answer, ask them "how do you think it works?" Next time they are in the mud, rather then getting cross because you have another set of clothes to wash – go and sit with them and ask what they are making. Chances are they will surprise you!
Nature is brilliant for encouraging play. Visit places such as the Botanic Gardens, the beach and National Parks and make use of all the resources available such as shells, rocks, sticks, hidey holes and the like.
Photo: Taliesin, Morguefile.com
At home you can provide cardboard boxes of all sizes,
create an outdoor mud kitchen or let them do their own cooking while you do yours! This alone teaches them hand eye co-ordination, problem solving, volume, fractions as well as fostering independence, confidence and memories to last a lifetime!
Photo: anitapeppers, Morguefile.com
So before you dismiss play as just something kids do to fill time, have a go at really watching a child as they play. When they hand you a painting they have created, understand that to get that painting they had to find a paintbrush, use the right amount of paint, think about what they wanted to paint, try and steer their chubby little hand in the right direction and then they had to be proud of it. That painting isn't just a painting, its a trophy!