Play Activities

March & Play to a Different Beat: Respect Differences in How Children Play

Kids, like adults, can march to a different beat, and play to a different one too; it’s important to respect differences in how children play.respect differences in how children play

Play is not the same for all children. Parents only need to have two kids to see the tremendous differences there can be from one child to the other. While all children love to move, some are far more active than others. These kids seem to be constantly on the run, jump, or hop. Some children talk far earlier than others. During their play, kids kids talk to the stuffies and toys and pretend to be their voices. Favorite toys might be a pretend telephone, or a real one whenever they see it around! Hands-on is the interaction of choice for many children. Blocks and construction toys of all sorts lurk on the floor for unsuspecting adult feet. In this case, it’s not marching to a different beat but limping.block and construction play

While there may be some general similarities for the ways girls play as opposed to the ways boys play, there are vast differences for children of the same gender. Many girls engage in building with blocks, rough-housing, and zooming cars and trains around a track. By the same token, many boys will play with dolls and kitchens. Just as many boys as girls have baby brothers and sisters, so caring for younger family members is common for both. Girls and boys can snuggle a doll, take it for a walk in the stroller, give it a bottle, and tell it not to cry. These are natural activities and show how we care for each other. Boys can ask for an easy-bake-oven and girls can want a science kit.boy playing dolls gender equality

When we respect differences in how children play we are respecting children themselves. Kids can march to a different beat in what they want to eat, how they dress, the books they like, and the way they play. How will your child choose to play today?


How to Steal a March #14: Play with Learning Tools = Advantage

Play with learning tools can give kids a huge advantage in confidence. Using a play-on-words for the month, it helps them “steal a march.” Here are some ideas ideas for fun and play with learning tools from an earlier post:

Letting your child play and experiment with these tools is not just fun, it’s also helpful before starting kindergarten or preschool. Being familiar with them increases a child comfort and confidence and fine motor skills.

To minimize the chance of walls or carpets being given a new color, it’s a good idea to crayon or glue proof an area. Big markers, crayons, and paint brushes are easier to hold than thinner ones. Paint dabbers are super handy as the color comes premixed with the sponge attached, but anything from q-tips to branches can be used. There are hundreds of recipes for homemade paint that vary from food colors diluted with water to instant pudding. (The pudding option is great for encouraging kids who are not particularly interested in drawing.)

learning tools for kidsGlue ranges from ordinary to sparkles to glow-in-the-dark. Paper can be recycled from cereal boxes, newsprint, and wrapping paper. Besides chalk boards, driveways, sidewalks and patios expand the space to giant-size. Scissors are the most challenging tool to use.

Playdough is easy to cut, doesn’t have any lines to follow, and can be cut over and over. As hands roll, pat, squish, and smoosh, they get lots of exercise.

The small muscles in the hand and wrist are still developing at this age. Strength and coordination will depend a great deal on how much kids have been able to play with learning tools and other toys, as well as their own unique strengths and challenges. Some kids are eager to use them and others are hesitant or not interested. Learning tools also give children a chance to be creative. Besides the physical opportunities, kids also practice problem-solving, planning, making choices, using language and other skills.

Children’s success in school depends on how they feel about interacting with materials and other people, both kids and adults. When kids are confident with the “tools of the trade” they have one less thing to be anxious about. If they have used learning tools before, they can go beyond the figuring-out stage to creating and collaborating. Introducing scissors, glue, and other items to kids thru play means they are comfortable with them. How can your child play with learning tools today?


How to Steal a March #13: Kids Hear a Call for Risky Play

Somehow the world speaks differently to kids that it does to adults; without a doubt, kids hear a call for risky play. Children’s response to this call often gives parents and teachers grey hairs. As their caregivers, we need to help kids manage their answers to risk.children and risk

Our own example is a powerful model for kids to imitate. When we need to evaluate risk and make a decision, we can explain our choice. For instance, if we are on a hike we can say a different path looks shorter but we might get lost. We may decide to take the risk or not, and it helps kids if we tell them why. We may risk being late by stopping at the store on our way home, but not by stopping on the way to the airport. Likely kids will have asked why already.

To use a quote, “There is nothing so freeing as not knowing our own limitations.” Children sometimes have unrealistic ideas of their own limitations–and their abilities. One child may think a side isn’t nearly high enough while another may be terrified. One needs to be discouraged, and the other encouraged to try.young children and risky play

Support may mean having to be flexible and creative. A the age of 3, our son was convinced he could fly. He jumped off anything he could climb onto. We discouraged him, with difficulty, from flying off the garage roof. Finally, after several weeks, we were able to get the no-fly message across by explaining he could jump (fly) off something depending on having a soft landing. The ground was soft only for a short jump and hard for a long jump. Why do some kids hear a call for risky play so easily and loudly?

Some adults engage in highly dangerous activities, but most of us grownups have learned to manage risk without putting ourselves in danger. For kids, it’s a learning curve with bumps and bruises. They learn to handle risk when it’s part of their activities. Play often involves risk be it alone or with others, outside and in. In many cases, experience can be the best kids manage risk

We will all have our own degree of acceptable risk, often in conflict with our kids and even our spouses. Handling children’s risk is a learning curve for us. No doubt, there will be some kind of risk in your child’s play today. What are your thoughts on kids and risky play?


How to Steal a March #10: Helping Young Children Follow Instructions

Helping young children follow instructions can give them an advantage, or to use an old expression, help them to “steal a march.” (This month’s posts are inspired by the play on words of march and March.) As an adult do you ever find following instructions to be a real challenge? For kids, that can happen … Continue reading How to Steal a March #10: Helping Young Children Follow Instructions

How to Steal a March #9: Curiosity Gives A Learning Advantage

Children ask dozens and dozens of questions a day–some estimates are as high as 300 in a single day, but curiosity gives a learning advantage. As parents, teachers, and caregivers we need to encourage it. In the words of Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”It would … Continue reading How to Steal a March #9: Curiosity Gives A Learning Advantage

February Friendship #9: Kids Can Make Friends with Imagination

Not every child imagines a friend or playmate but all kids can make friends with imagination. It’s a powerful tool for playing and for thinking and feeling. Imaginative play can happen any time and certainly anywhere. While the action is taking place in the mind, there is also action in the body. If you close … Continue reading February Friendship #9: Kids Can Make Friends with Imagination

Kids Can Be Friends with Boredom – Being Bored Isn’t Bad

This might sound like a strange post for Friendship Month, but being bored isn’t bad, for kids or adults, and kids can be friends with boredom. Both the solution and the results can be very satisfying. Kids often say, “There’s nothing to do. I’m bored.” Our first reaction is just as often to worry. Next, … Continue reading Kids Can Be Friends with Boredom – Being Bored Isn’t Bad

Kids Valentine Play Dough Fun is Hands-on Learning and Play

Part of the appeal of any holiday is doing some things again every year so, for a play-of-the-day, how about some kids valentine play dough fun? It’s hands-on and hands-in. Although available in stores, play dough and it’s cousin slime or goop are easy to make at home and very inexpensive. Here are some instructions … Continue reading Kids Valentine Play Dough Fun is Hands-on Learning and Play

New Year’s Resolutions: U = USE Non-Toys for Children’s Play

Kids impress us with their creativity and flexibility, especially in how to use non-toys for children’s play. So good, it happens almost daily! Have you had to search all over the house and car for something a little one was playing with? Like the keys or your phone? Kids play with almost anything. What appeals … Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions: U = USE Non-Toys for Children’s Play