While babyproofing our home, I challenged myself to think about redesigning for both safety and play. As I’ve just started, the final result might take weeks (months? years? continuously evolve?) so I’m blogging ideas along the way that expand on the early play concepts from the meet up a fortnight back.
- Children don’t play in order to learn, they learn while they play
- Children need to feel a sense of belonging with the freedom to establish a culture and social world with their peers
- Adapt to children’s ideas rather than structure their ideas to fit the adult’s. Projects with directions and planned activities are fine in moderation but more time (80% in their early years) should be spent in open-ended, self-initiated free play. Children these days spend too much time in settings that focus on structured educational, enrichment and recreational activities.
- Emphasize the enjoyment and value of the “process” of playing and creating, more than the finished product. Let children express what they see, hear, feel, think – and then find solutions and modify experiences to maximise creativity. Children should expect to “make mistakes.” Accept unusual ideas and solutions – suspend judgment!
- Facilitate creative play indoors and outdoor:
- Provide long, uninterrupted periods (45–60 minutes minimum) for spontaneous free play
- Encourage children to manipulate the environment to support their play
- Recognize the value of messy play, rough-and-tumble play, and nonsense play as well
- Allow time to explore all possibilities, moving from popular to more original ideas, considering opportunities for challenge and age-appropriate risk-taking
- Draw on everyday problems, observations and objects
- Provide a variety of materials to stimulate different kinds of play—blocks and construction toys for cognitive development; sand, mud, water, clay, art and food stuff, other loose open-ended materials for sensory play; dress-up clothes and props for pretend play; balls, hoops, climbing places, and open space for gross motor play:
- Provide play-space(s) that allows age-appropriate easy, independent access to explore:
- Cosy reading corner: Place books into an appliance box surrounded by rugs, pillows, blankets, armchair — where both adults and children can read together. Use voices for the characters in the books you read. Change a book into a talking puppet. Make up stories!
- Open art center: Put a table next to an easel, tub of playdough, low shelves filled with supplies like crayons, glue, staplers, tape, scissors, cardboard/heavy/wrapping paper, collage materials (i.e. odds and ends – stickers, buttons, beads, scraps, etc.)
- Increase opportunities for rich symbolic role play. Pretend play engages children in the same kind of representational thinking needed in early literacy activities. Children develop complex narratives, link objects, actions, and language together in combinations and narrative sequences
- Change the furniture around and lay out a basket of props, clothes, etc.
- Picnic on the floor instead of the usual table meal
- Turn a chair/table over and make it a boat, car, house, bed, cave
- Modify a corner into the home of the three bears, a rocket ship, a vets office, etc.
- Build towers and bridges with wooden blocks, tubes, empty paper rolls
- Go outside! Natural landscapes outdoors provide rich, diverse, multi-sensory experiences; opportunities for noisy, boisterous, vigorous, physically active play; physical challenge and risktaking that are inherent in the value of play; rough, uneven surfaces, development of physical strength, balance, and coordination; and natural elements and loose parts that children can combine, manipulate, and adapt for their own purposes.
- Show your appreciation of your children’s creativity. Laugh, document, display and discuss often. Share works they are proud of. Play on their terms, taking an interest, asking questions, offering suggestions, and engaging eagerly when invited – ride the slide, put on a hat, assume a role, etc.
- Accept and love them for who they are!
– Mary Ann Kohl’s article on Fostering Creativity
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