Guest blog from Fi Morrison.
Imaginative play is a powerful thing. It can unlock the minds of children, and engage them in new worlds. It presents them with endless possibilities, promoting critical and creative thinking – skills that are highly valued in our current society as leading attributes for the upcoming best and brightest. So it stands to reason that we should be developing and utilising play as much as possible. But do we actually do this? And if not, do we actually know how to?
Play can mean different things to different people – as a teacher, I understand play to mean many things, such as lunchtime games, role plays, imaginative play, and social activities. I have also learnt a lot from being a part of the CELEBRATE PLAY group, which has shared many different types of play that we can use with our children at home. If you are unsure about how to get started with play, or maybe think that you don’t have the time to start all these new ideas, play can be incorporated into even the most mundane of everyday routines. I’ve included 5 simple suggestions below:
Brushing Teeth routine
This is a routine almost all children are involved in, even from a very young age when parents are helping to brush their children’s teeth. We have heard the “Brush your teeth” song – and songs are a great way to incorporate a play element to routines. They make the routine fun and engaging for children, and the repetition helps to reinforce the process for completing a task. For example, with the “Brush your teeth” song, you can teach your children to sing (or hum, if they can’t sing with their mouth full of toothpaste!) the song while brushing their teeth, and as they get to a certain part of the song they change how they brush their teeth.
“When you wake up in the morning and it’s a quarter to 1” – child brushes the front of their bottom teeth;
“and you want to have a little fun” – child brushes the back of/behind their bottom teeth;
“You brush your teeth – ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, You brush your teeth – ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch,” – child brushes the top of their bottom teeth.
Have your child repeat this for the top set of teeth. To increase the amount of time they brush their teeth, get them to sing more verses. If they are getting bored of the song, make it a game by encouraging them to come up with their own rhyming words for one, two, three, four…
Setting the dinner table
If you ask your children to help with chores around the house, encourage them to be involved by incorporating play into the activity. For example, if you ask your children to help set the table, incorporating role play can be extremely effective. Two examples of this are:
* Get them to imagine they are inviting their favourite person over for dinner. How would they like the table presented? What would they need? Get them to show you how they would like it. Make this a nightly game by suggesting new guest who might arrive at home.
* Get your child/ren to image being waiters and/or waitresses for the evening. Tell them that part of their job is helping to get the restaurant ready. They could dress up, carry a notepad to take orders, and even clean away the dishes afterwards!
Walking to school
Does anyone remember the old-school (or is this showing my age?) imaginative games while walking to school like “don’t step on the lines of the footpath – they are boiling lava!” Ask your child/ren to think of creative ways to walk to school – similar things could be said of water/sharks (“don’t step on the cracks in the footpath – they’re sharks!”). However, just be mindful of what age you start this, and the temperament of your child – you don’t want to cause any unnecessary fears (which I have heard has happened!). Ask your child/ren to walk in different ways, for example, “Walk like something enormous up to the next telegraph pole”, or “Move like something ancient up to the traffic lights”. This can even help with building their language skills – word association and synonyms can develop (e.g. using the word “ancient” instead of “old”, and their response to this/how they move can show you what they understand of the word “ancient”).
Getting ready for bed
Recently on CELEBRATE PLAY, Erin shared the importance of storytelling with children. Never underestimate the power of stories! Children’s books are a passion of mine, and reading to children even more so. Incorporate play into your child’s bed time routine (from ANY AGE – we currently have reading time during the day with our 6 month old, but I will soon make the transition to bed time reading) by having a family storytelling time. Not only does this engage your child/ren’s minds in new worlds and exciting stories, but it can also help to build a cherished family time that will stick in their memories for ever (I remember my dad reading to me when I was younger, although he used to read more Paramedic documents rather than stories – but I treasured those times nevertheless!).
Some may call it bribery (and others may call it genius), but incentive and reward charts are a great way for children to get involved in their chores – and they will LOVE IT! Reward charts can include elements of play, such as using monopoly money as ‘rewards’ for completing chores, following rules, etc (in whatever scenario you’d like to use it). These rewards/money can then be spent on prizes, such as sweets, going to the movies, or even choice of a movie to watch at home. This can be a powerful lesson in the value and use of money. You may need to be cautious of how this builds your child/ren’s perspective about chores and ‘money’ (it could be positive or negative, so just be aware).
Those are my top, quick tips for incorporating play into daily routines.
What are some ways you engage your children in play in day-to-day activities?
Fi Morrison is a lucky wife and first time mum to a beautiful 6 month old boy, all living in Sydney. She is a trained primary school teacher currently on maternity leave. Fi blogs at Mumma Morrison (www.mummamorrison.com) and aims to help new and prospective mums in their motherhood journey. We are so pleased to have Fi join us in the celebration of play and to share her knowledge and experience with our mummy tribe. Welcome Fi.