Have an Objective / Purpose. Think through the activity you'd like to work through with your child and select the toy you think would be serve that purpose. See a few of my favorite toys on The Blog from a couple weeks ago!
Use Repetition. Use the toys you have repeatedly and in cycles! One of my favorite college professors used to say "Repetition aids learning" all the time, and it's true! Sometimes we can get bored with the toys our children have, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are. Put it away for a little bit, and when you pull it out again, they may be able to engage with it using their new repertoire of skills that have developed since the last time they used that toy. You can play with the same toy, but this time having a different objective or purpose.
Engage in different types of play! Some of these are going to depend on the age or developmental level of your choice. Take time to model & engage with your child using these types of play! Then offer times to play independently. You'll be surprised by what they can do!
- Manipulative: This can include anything that allows your child to hold or handle small toys (thinking fine motor skills here!) Examples- Baby grasping a link, banging two blocks together, putting objects in and out of a container. For toddlers, this could include stacking blocks, stringing beads, & putting together a 3-4 piece puzzle!
- Physical: Physical play is all about those gross motor skills and being active! All children need this! Examples- A baby rolling from one side of the blanket to the other to get that coveted teething toy (or snack... my daughter was always motivated by a puff!) For a toddler, this can include throwing a ball, climbing up stairs & going down the slide at the park, or riding a balance bike!
- Dramatic: This is a great way to get your child's imagination going! Dramatic play offers kids the opportunity to be any person (fire man, knight, cowboy/girl, or a Mommy) and use toys/costumes to take on that roll! My sons personal favorite is to be a Daddy and make dinner (you can tell who cooks at our house...). Haha! This doesn't need to be over complicated- you can get a crown from Burger King and a fireman hat from Fire House or your local fire department. A towel easily doubles as a super hero cape! Or make your own costume using paper and a printer! Just use your imagination & you're sure to have a great time with your child!
- Creative: This might be my favorite. Creative play includes coloring with crayons/pencils/markers, clay, glue, paint, etc. All things children tend to love when provided the opportunity. But at the same time, things a lot of the families (when I first meet them) avoid. Why? THE MESS!!!! Don't worry about this. In an upcoming blog, we'll be providing some tips! Also, I think some parents don't realize how early young children can begin engaging in creative play (or art). My one-year-old loves to color, and she actually does a great job with her colorful scribbling.
It's important, as parents, to make time to play with our children. Play is not this big, exhausting event you need to create for your child. You (maybe unknowingly) start to play when your child is an infant. When your baby starts to smile and you smile back, you are engaging in play!