Wednesday, February 10, 2016

3 Reasons Why Kids NEED to Play

There was an excellent article posted on nprEd entitled What Kids Need From Grown-Ups (But Aren't Getting).  The article is a summary of a conversation with Erika Christakis the author of the book The Importance of Being Little.   Here are a few of my favorite points:

1.  "I think the No. 1 thing is for kids to have a chance to play, to make friends, to learn limits, to learn to take their turn."  - This is spot on.  The focus of preschool and kindergarten has changed so that students are expected to sit still for long periods of time and learn extensive academic material. The problem becomes that many children do not have the self regulation skills to accomplish these tasks resulting in challenging behaviors that distract from instructional time.  When children learn through play, they guide the exploration, take turns and learn how to wait.

2.  "If you're building a fort with your peers, you're talking, using higher-level language structures in play than you would be if you're sitting at a table. You're doing math skills, you're doing physics measurement, engineering...that's very powerful." - Think about other played based skills - maybe a simple tea party.  Children have to learn to pour liquids (life skill), determine proper measurements (volume) and take turns (social skills).  How about playing superhero?  Children are developing imagination skills, creativity, verbal expression and social skills.  I am sure that completing a letter worksheet will not address all the previously mentioned skills.  

As children get older, you can introduce more direct literacy skills into play time.  For example, provide play prompts, such as Doctor and Hospital pretend play pages, to help spark imagination and literacy skills.   

3.  "Boredom can be a friend to the imagination." - Children in today's society have very little or no down time. For some reason, parents today feel the need to sign their children up for every enrichment activity under the sun.  It is okay for children to have nothing to do and that does not mean turn on the television, grab a smart phone or play a video game.  Children need to learn to develop leisure skills which help them to determine their talents, expand their creativity. feel a sense of accomplishment and relieve stress.  Sometimes, all children need when bored is a few suggestions to get them started or some simple tools/props to get going.  Play Move Develop has 100 ideas to encourage development through play skills.  

You can read the entire article here.

Reference:  Turner, C.  What Kids Need From Grown-Ups (But Aren't Getting). NPRed.  Retrieved from the web on 2/10/16 at

Monday, February 8, 2016

Toddler Time: Unwrapping

Materials: small toys/objects and tin foil

Preparation:  Wrap up the toys and objects in some tin foil.  Place the wrapped objects in a bowl or bucket.

Activity: Start to unwrap one of the objects a tiny bit and let the child complete the unwrapping to discover the object.  Once the child learns how to open the tin foil encourage him/her to unwrap each object.

The child may also enjoy just tearing up little bits of tin foil or making a tin foil ball.

This activity could also be done with boxes/lids or jars/lids.  Put the toys inside the boxes or jars. The child has to open the box or jar to reveal the toy.

This activity lasted for at least 10 minutes with my toddler (record breaker)!  He loved it.  I had to wrap and rewrap objects several times.  

This activity is from Play Move Develop.  This is a collection of 100 reproducible sensory motor activities to encourage motor skill development and learning. FIND OUT MORE HERE.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Toddler Painting

Today we did some painting with water. My little guy is a handful. So finding activities that entertain him in one location for a few minutes can sometimes be a challenge. This activity gets a thumbs up from me. He "painted" for about 5-7 minutes straight which is lengthy for this guy. Thank God it wasn't paint since he drank it and ate the paintbrush! 
He was quite proud of his masterpiece and showed it off to his brothers and sisters. We will definitely do this activity again. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Penguin Coloring Page from Animal Coloring Pages

I just love all the new coloring pages I see online and in the stores.  The only problem is that they take way toooooooo long to color!  I just created a set of 20 zentangle animal coloring pages that are easier and less detailed. Translation - you will actually be able to color the whole picture!  Download the free penguin page here.

To get the complete Animal Coloring Pages download for  $1.99  SALE PRICE of $0.99 until 2/28/16 click on the ADD TO CART button below.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 Unique Pretend Play Ideas

1.  Pretend Play Library - if you follow my blog you know that one of my favorite things to do with my children is go to the library.  It is so peaceful and quiet with so many learning opportunities.  Here is a great set of free printables so the children can play library at home.

2.  Pretend Play Travel Agent - set up a small chair and table.  Write Travel Agent on a piece of paper and hang it from the desk.  Toss some brochures, maps and these trip planning printables on the table and start booking a trip.

3.  Radio or Television Station - set up a table with two chairs.  Divide up the roles - show host, person to interview, make up, hair, camera person, etc depending upon how many children are playing.  The children can pick a topic to discuss or just ask random questions.  Here are a few questions to start with from Minds in Bloom.   

4.  Pretend Play Ballet or Exercise Studio - check out this homemade ballet bar which would be even better if you put it in a room with a large wall mirror.  Add some seating and move right into the pretend recital.  Ballet not your thing? Throw some mats on the ground, jump ropes, cardboard tubes for weightlifting bars and open up an exercise gym. 

5.  Orphanage - my children love to play this game!  We set up all the dolls in shoe boxes, on pillows or in pretend cribs. Someone runs the orphanage and other people come to visit to see who they would like to adopt.  We make up all these crazy stories about why the babies are there and why we have come to adopt them.  Super simple set-up with hours of fun and imagination.  

Need quick ideas for pretend play?  Check out all of our printables.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

5 Reasons Why Play is Purposeful

Many times, as adults we may not always remember how necessary play is for children including teenagers.  There is a purpose for play.  Here are 5 reasons why children and teens play:

1.  To develop social skills and interact with adults and peers.
2.  To explore objects - touch, hear, taste, see and learn from objects.
3.  To be creative and develop imagination skills.
4.  To develop motor skills so that hands can manipulate objects and children can move throughout their environment.
5.  To learn cognitive skills - cause and effect, motion analysis, number correspondence and more!

Need game ideas for your family?  Check out the Growing Play game collection.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

5 Tips to Help Children With Pretend Play

Many children love to play pretend and create elaborate imaginative settings and characters.  Some children may need a little extra help to expand their make believe play skills.  Here are 5 simple tips to help your child or student develop pretend play scenarios:

1.  Ask questions about what the children are playing?  This will encourage the children to effectively communicate about what they are pretending.  In addition, it gives you an peek inside a young child's thought processes. 

2.  Participate in the play.  Once the child has explained the scenario join in at their level - sit on the floor or small chair and get into "character" ie restaurant customer, patient, pet owner, etc.  

3.  Role model pretend play.  Once you are in "character" display appropriate behavior and conversation related to the theme.  Pretend to eat the play food, talk on a play telephone or check the next patient.  This allows the child to observe other play scripts to add to their scenarios.

4.  Offer suggestions if needed.  If a child seems stuck on advancing the scenario offer some suggestions of how they could expand the pretend play.  Maybe suggest different characters or different ways to use objects.  Remember to just suggest not force changing the scenario.  Sometimes children have an extensive play script in their minds. Follow their lead whenever able.

5.  Provide ample time and different environments for pretend play.  With children, pretend play can take place over hours, days and even weeks.  My daughter and I have been playing that we are orphans for weeks.  A few months ago, she was the school teacher and I was the student. Vary the environment, playing pretend outdoors brings a whole new experience.  Read here about 5 Outdoor Imagination Activities.

Need visual prompts or suggestions for pretend play?  Check out the most popular pretend packet - Doctor and Hospital.  The Hospital and Doctor packet includes 22 forms and signs to play pretend hospital and doctor.  Included are waiting room signs, check in desk, insurance cards, appointment 
cards, emergency forms, plan of care, nursery forms and more!  Kids of all ages will love this packet to take playing pretend a step further.  FIND OUT MORE.

Reference:  Marna Winter & Heidi Hollingsworth (2015) Promoting Pretend Play in the
Preschool Years: Teacher Practices and Strategies for Involving Families, Childhood Education,
91:3, 182-189, DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2015.1047309