Play time is an important part of growing up. In today’s busy world, we sometimes forget that for little minds, play is learning. If we want to give our children the best life we can, the first years have to involve lots of play, alone and with others. Here are some ways you can stimulate creative play.
1. Make time for play.
Play shouldn’t be something your kids do between errands, school, and chores. It’s an important part of growing up and you should make sure they have ample free time to get to it. They don’t need packed schedules and direct stimulation; they need to explore the world in their own way.
2. Eliminate some after school programs.
Many parents think they need to cram as much as they can into their kids’ day to boost their development. This often backfires. The kids are exhausted and bored, so they don’t pay attention and disregard whatever they’re being taught. These parents have good intentions, but they likely aren’t helping. A few extra-curricular activities are good, but leave time for free time.
3. Accept chaos.
When your kids (babies and toddlers) in strong, developmentally beneficial play, you’re going to have an untidy home. They’ll pick up and discard toys as their game requires. Don’t chase them around, cleaning up their mess. The goal is to let your child’s mind wander and take her where it will. In fact, dive into the game with her!
4. Offer open-ended toys.
Board games and arts-and-crafts are fun, but they don’t offer many developmental advantages. These can only be played with in a certain way, so your child doesn’t have the opportunity to use his or her imagination. Stock your playroom with dress up costumes, blocks, dolls, toy cars/trucks, and anything else that can be played with in many ways.
5. Start the imaginative game yourself.
If your kids are struggling to come up with something to play, dive in yourself. Recruit them to help you explore an alien planet, invite them to your tea party, or enlist them in your army to slay the dragon. Your kids will quickly follow.
6. Tune off the TV.
The television is easy entertainment. It’s pleasing and doesn’t require any work on your child’s part. As the stories are laid out, each character and plot become more predictable and less imaginative. Switch off the TV and (if you can) hide it in a cabinet. TV has its uses, but it shouldn’t be the primary mode of entertainment for young minds.
7. Invite other children to play time.
Your children will, over time, fall into patterns when they play with each other. One is the hero, the other is the sidekick. One is the good guy, the other is the bad guy. These routines don’t give them a chance to explore other perspectives and build empathy. By tossing some kids into the mix, you shake up their routine and get their brains working. Don’t schedule arts and crafts or plan out the activities, just let play time happen.
Guest Blog by Jennifer Jacobellis, founder of Baby J
Jennifer Jacobellis started Baby J when her son was just a few months old. She ventured out to mommy and me classes and play groups, armed with just a blanket for him to lie on. After class, she would fold up her blanket and stick it in the diaper bag, knowing that when she got home it would have to go straight into the laundry basket. There had to be a better way!
One day she decided it was time to solve this problem. She ran to the fabric store and began tinkering. She designed this baby play mat with her germ-a-phobe tendencies in mind, as well as being soft, baby friendly, and chic. The Baby J play mat was born!
For more information, visit www.babyj.com
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