Play is everywhere — how can you help your child find it?
If asked to think of play, what’s the first scenario that comes to mind?
You probably thought of playing a sport, a board game, or your child pretend playing, right? And of course, all of that is play! But ‘play’ can also be so much more.
From the moment a baby starts to kick and giggle to a toddler trying to find their balance on a Balance Board, children find play everywhere! In this blog, we will look at what exactly play means to a child, the benefits of such free-spirited play, and some fun ways that you can make room for free play in your little one's life!
Why do kids find play everywhere?
As adults, we tend to categorize our days into work, chores, meals, sleep, and recreation. We often add play into the schedule we create for our little ones, assuming it to be a particular activity or set of actions.
But for a child, play is not about a game or even a toy. Play is about having an immersive, engaging experience.
From the kitchen to the bathtub to their bed, any place could turn into a playground for a child. If they can show up with exciting ideas and feelings, a friend, and some tools or toys, that’s a holistic play experience. In other words, play is not an activity for a child, but how they participate in any activity.
If we remove a designated playtime and approach play in the way that children do, we can see how it brings about curiosity, valuable questions, and a loving connection to the world.
So what are some ways we can 'trigger' a child to seize a play opportunity in front of them? Read on to find out!
7 ideas to make room for play in your child’s day
1. Take the boredom challenge!
“I’m BORED!!” – if your preschooler has learnt these words, you may be listening to it multiple times a day! It can be tempting to jump in and provide them with some game, activity, or TV time when they say so. But as the storyteller Viram Sridhar reminds us, boredom is a fertile ground for the imagination!
Take a challenge to not interrupt your child’s boredom. They may come up with games of their own, or simply find new creative ways to occupy themselves!
2. Repurpose screen time
Has your child ever watched a cartoon or TV programme for a short while, only to jump up and try to find the props to recreate what they see? While it’s important to set limits on your child’s screen time, it’s equally valuable to make sure your child isn’t just passively watching content.
Looking for ways to manage your child's screentime? This blog has 5 easy suggestions!
You could use what they see as prompts, pushing them to get up and interact with it! Get them to dress up as their favourite character and roleplay. Ask them if they can remember the rhymes they just heard. Or simply ask what they felt about the show they just watched and see if they’d like to recreate it at home!
3. Surround them with open-ended playthings
Open-ended toys do not have a specific goal or winning outcome, think a rattle, Montessori Arches, or a Wooden Stacker. Your child can play with these toys in many different ways but they will need to decide and direct the play.
For example, they can enjoy stacking the rings on the stacker, turn them into colourful donuts during pretend play, or even use them as shapes to draw around! Such toys designed for free play will encourage your child to get involved, stay engaged, and find play opportunities all around them
4. Keep a box of ‘loose toys’
These are toys that have multiple parts to assemble. If the toy can be put together in many different ways (such as wooden blocks or free play sets), that’s even better! Keep a box of such playthings around for your child to experiment with when they feel restless or bored.
It could include blocks, puzzles, free play sets, toilet paper rolls, scarves, and small cardboard boxes. You could even have a second box of just creative materials such as playdough, stamps, stickers, crayons, shells, and ribbons!
5. Ask them to join you in chores
Of course no adult thinks of chores as play! But as we spoke about, any immersive experience can be play for a child. So bring in your little helper to tag along for daily chores like cooking and cleaning.
Be it stirring batter, dropping spoons of salt or sugar into dishes, or mopping, they will be thoroughly absorbed in the experience and might even recreate it with their own play kitchen soon!
6. Spot a good storytelling opportunity
Yes, stories are a form of play too (didn’t we tell you it’s everywhere?). Listening to a great story is an adventurous trip for the imagination! But stories don’t just have to be from a book. You can make them up on the go, especially when there’s a teaching opportunity in front of you.
Want to learn how to tell a story your child will love? Listen to this podcast where we speak to author and storyteller Janaki Sabesh.
For example, if your child is afraid of the dark, you can calm their fear by telling stories while making shadow animals with your fingers. Teach them to make the animals too! If they have had a tough day at school, a little roleplay using finger puppets can be both fun and a chance to express themselves.
7. Get that outdoor time
A game of catch, throwing a ball around, skipping, cycling, slides and swings — the outdoors is filled with opportunities for play! So make sure your child gets some outdoor time each day.
This won’t just help them exert energy and build their gross motor skills, but playing in fresh air with greenery around will allow them to feel more connected to the world they live in!
A few more tips…
When it comes to finding play opportunities, it’s not just about looking at the world around your little one. What’s most important is that you stay in tune with what your child is thinking and feeling, so you know exactly what they will need!
It's a good idea to keep play close in your life too, be it through board games, sports, or pictionary nights with friends. Children learn the most from watching and modelling us. So having room for play in your own life and building a community of like-minded families around will go a long way.
And remember, play isn’t just about who wins or loses, or even what you learn from it. Staying playful means keeping your eyes open to wonder, possibility, and the small adventures around you each day!