Do you sometimes cruise around the blogosphere, inspired by the great play and activity ideas and think…
“That’s a great idea but my child doesn’t like to play ____”
Fill in the blank!
Most children do have preferred ways of playing. In our house it is definitely imaginative or creative play that proves most popular. But your child/ren may prefer physical/active play, constructing, or reading, or thinking based games (like puzzles, manipulatives and board games). Your child might prefer to spend all of their time outdoors… or indoors.
As adults we have preferred areas of interest, activities and ways of learning. So it is natural that children do too. But that is not to say that we cannot (or should not) introduce them to other types of activities, to help them discover new potential interests, passions or ways to play.
How can we encourage our child to try new ways to play? Well, here are a few suggestions…
Start with what they already enjoy
Your child loves playing with trains. Then add a clipboard and pencil for drawing a map of the tracks or some people/animal figurines, a box house and some toilet paper tube trees alongside the train track to extend the imaginative play potential.
Or, for a child who loves to run around outdoors, take a box of dress ups outside. Or some chunky sidewalk chalk for drawing lines to balance along or around shadow shapes.
Starting where your child is already at and adding props or resources to encourage their play in new directions doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. Think about what it is you would like your child to try and then consider ways to build on what they already love to do, using toys and resources you already have around the house.
Engage their curiosity by making it inviting or fun
Taking a little extra time to think about how you store your toys and being selective about what toys you set out and how you present them can make all of the difference to how your child plays with them. When everything is messy or lumped in a box all together, children may struggle to play for extended periods of time.
Presenting a new idea or resource as an invitation to play simply by laying it out attractively may be all of the incentive your child needs to give it a go and try something new.
Strewing involves collecting and presenting interesting, hands on resources to encourage new interests and connections between what children already know and new ideas. And simply leaving them in the path of where your child will find them. Read more about strewing and introducing new props into play here.
I am not suggesting that as a parent you need to spend all of your time playing with your child, rather you simply being near the space where they are playing can make a difference. For example, Immy spends a lot more time playing outdoors if I am out there some, or all, of the time. I might be pulling weeds or watering vegies while she is pottering around in the sandpit or jumping on the trampoline but just being nearby to answer her questions or to provide encouragement or guidance generally extends her time playing.
What is your child’s favourite way to play? Is there another way of playing that you would like to see them do more of?