Making a Place for Play
“Play is the highest form of research” - Albert Einstein
We’ve all heard this quote or one like it. We know the importance of allowing your child to play. We know how it helps their development. But what does play really mean and what does it look like in your home? Let’s break it down...
What is play?
Anything freely chosen or spontaneously done for its own sake; seems purposeless, produces joy and arises from intrinsic motivation. What's the first image that comes to mind? Your little ones moving about areas of play? Little hands organizing and studying the toys in their playroom?
What does it actually do for my child?
When children play, they meet all of their individual needs; social, emotional, physical, and cognitive. They also create a positive and lasting love for learning.
What can I do at home?
- Dedicate a space
If you already have a play space or a playroom, you are doing great! It’s important for kids to have a space of their own where nothing (mostly) is off-limits. It’s really hard to be spontaneous if you feel limited- like you can’t run around, be noisy, or get a little dirty. If all these things make you cringe, we understand. It's important, however, to be aware of how your organization could be limiting your child’s imagination. It may seem like they are just running amuck, but we promise, it’s good for them! They might even take a longer nap or sleep through the night (no promises though).
Break from your dedicated space
Everything and everywhere is an opportunity for play! How about the kitchen? Let them peel garlic- they will find a way to play with the leftover peels. Give them a butter knife to cut bananas- they can stack the slices, line them up, or squish them. Give them dry noodles to stick into play-doh while you cook dinner. Outside of the kitchen, let them help you match socks and fold towels. Let them help rake leaves and shovel snow. Go for a long walk. Let them bring in the rocks and sticks they collected on the walk and add it to their toys. For example, my son has been carrying around a Buckeye nut for the last 5 days and it couldn’t make him happier.
These semi-structured opportunities for play will be a little messy and perhaps inconvenient, but find something that works for you. Using everyday moments and activities promotes the development of the whole child while also laying a foundation for basic life skills.
3. Art supplies and more
It doesn’t have to be fancy but space and supplies have to be accessible. Children need to know what’s possible and that creativity isn’t just something to do during special times- it’s for always!
We have a second hand bench that we use as a desk in our play space. A few plastic drawers beside it hold some markers, stamps, play-doh, paint stix, and a giant roll of butcher paper! Of course, you have to consider the age of your child on the accessibility of some supplies (i.e. scissors or ball point pens). Always nearby are old Halloween costumes, giant floor puzzles, a bucket of rocks, and a science kit with plastic beakers and a magnifying glass. I could write an entire book on the thousands of hours of fun we have with these things. Goes to show how your own creativity gets you lots of bang for your buck!
If your play space is in your main living space like mine is, I can tell you that I have more fun when I let go of my expectations for the condition of my home. We have to remember that our tiny humans live here too. Your house will not be clean. Things will not get done quickly. But you will be doing things together, making memories, and I promise there will be lots of smiles that make it all worthwhile!
What play will and your little ones find in your home? We'd love to know!
Jessica Karr is a K-6 Art teacher from Ohio, but she’s most proud of her job titles as wife (to Sam) and mom (to 3-year-old Luke). With her Master in Art Education degree, she advocates to bring creativity into all aspects of life. Jessica enjoys cooking healthy treats with her family while balancing it out with the latest Jeni’s Ice Cream flavors. She has been a member of Baby Boot Camp Columbus since it opened in June 2016 and is a 2019 Baby Boot Camp Ambassador.