8 Great Ways to Play
We want our children to be creative and effective problem solvers. The question is, “how do you develop those skills?” The best way to begin is with play, especially dramatic (imaginative) play. Sometimes dramatic play happens naturally, evolving in a sandbox or in a cardboard box. Other times, children may need some support in creating a place, space, and discovering the possibilities of where play can lead them (and you).
Here are eight great adventures that you can easily create with your child:
- Visit the coffee shop (okay, that's the favorite in our household) or grocery store. Children often love to imitate real life. It is one way they learn to understand the happenings of our daily lives. Playing coffee shop or store can be accomplished using your child's toys (i.e. a children's kitchen set) or your own kitchen may be the perfect setting. Dramatic play with your child is more about questions and reactions then it is about telling your child what will or should happen. Begin your play with simple statements: “Oh, I see you are going shopping. What should we buy today?” Your excursion may be expanded as you pay for your purchases or taste the foods (pretend, of course!).
- Have a tea party. If you have a toddler, chances are they will enjoy pouring water (find a toddler-sized pitcher at a local dollar store, and, of course, DO expect spills). Tea parties provide great opportunities for pouring and stirring and also for practice of appropriate behaviors for restaurants, stores, and, of course, tea parties. You don't need a “fancy-schmancy” tea set to create a tea party with your munchkin. Think cups, plates and spoons (plastic or the “real deal” – note: if you go with the real deal – breakable – you must be forgiving enough to realize things may get broken!). Again, start the play with a simple prompt, “Shall we have a tea party?” “How should we make the tea?” Go with the flow and show your child how to pretend to enjoy their creation. Build on this play experience by having a real tea party (herbal teas are not recommended for children). Milk or water can be fine substitutes. Add a few crackers and you and your child may find a ton of fun in play as you set a table, make the tea, “bake” the crackers and last, but not least, sit down to enjoy a tea party together.
- Travel by boat, bus, plane or train. There's something intriguing to toddlers about modes of transportation. Create your choice of transportation by making pretend tickets, lots of sound effects, and even getting to enjoy a snack during the ride. Don't forget to talk about the passing scenery and encourage your child to tell you what they are seeing and hearing too.