children and play

A Valentine from PLAY to Kids: How Does Your Child Play?

Did your child get any valentines? This is a rather unusual one, it’s a valentine from PLAY to a child.

valentine from play

The valentine says, “I want to play with you!” In the part that says ‘From’, instead of a name, there is a mirror made out of foil and shaped like a heart. The message is that play comes from the inside, not from a toy, not from somebody else, but from within the child. According to an unknown expert, “Children are wired for hands-on, full-contact, self-selected interaction with the world.” This is a great description of play and it’s reassuring to know that it’s built right in.

Much of what children do as play is to imitate what they see the adults around them doing. This could be talking and texting on the phone, looking at a book, stirring with a spoon, scribbling on a paper, putting things in a drawer, driving in a car, snuggling a baby, and more. Some of their play is, of course, things that they Never see us doing, like throwing a toothbrush in the toilet, coloring on the walls, or throwing the car keys in the trash. Any of that sound familiar?

children and play

We can not impose play on kids, but we can encourage it. Kids often will look to us for recognition. This could be a smile and a few words. It might be a question that invites them to tell or show us more. We may even play with them for awhile. For instance, we may kick a ball back and forth in the yard, sip an imaginary cup of tea, or build with blocks.

Toys are part of play, but children will play without them. Sometimes, their play becomes more creative when they have to make do with what they have or imagine what they want.


In the next series of posts, I’d like to explore ways that kids play. While we can’t look inside, we can see what’s happening on the outside and get ideas about their play. Can you and your child come out to play? Consider this another valentine from play.

Star Wars Play: Self-Directed Play

The star of all play ideas is self-directed play, and kids themselves will remind us if we forget. As adults, it’s so easy to get caught up in planning and orchestrating children’s play, instead of allowing them to direct it themselves.

self-directed playToday, I was trying to think of another Star Wars play activity for today but the kids beat me to it. Little Sister rounded up all the shapes from a toy she hadn’t played with in a long while. Each shape has a small hole in the middle so it will sit on a peg board. She didn’t stop until she had a shape on every peg so the board had no empty spaces.

I thought I was suitably enthusiastic when I said, “Wow, look at all those shapes. You worked to fill up the whole thing,” but I guess not. Little Sister had to point it out. “See, the shapes are in lines.” My second wow was much better. I hadn’t even noticed, but sure enough, the shapes were separated so all of the circles, triangles, stars, etc were in their own lines. There was no need for me to get bent-out-of-shape thinking of something to do. The stars had already aligned.

It’s so important for us to let kids be the stars in their own play. We can support their play by being there for them to ‘show and tell’. Many times kids will invite us to come and see. Even though they are playing, this is their work. They are proud of their own efforts and want us to be too.

We can also support children’s play by giving them a space where they are free—with a few guidelines, of course—to choose how they will play. They may want to spread out a puzzle, build high and wide with blocks, or zoom cars in a big, empty space.

As kids play, we can notice what they are doing and occasionally ask questions or make comments. For instance, if Little Sister hadn’t placed the shapes in their own line, I may have noticed where there were a couple of the same shape already and asked if more of that shape could go in the same line too. There are often ways to extend play, once we take the time to really look.

This Star Wars play-of-the-day was very different from my perspective. Today, self-directed play gets the star.

What To Do the Day After Christmas?

What’s on your agenda for the day after Christmas? Anyone else think Boxing Day should be renamed Nap Day?

reading books and storiesKids and adults could both use some time today to take things a little easier. It might mean a nap snuggled under a warm blanket. It could be a few books and stories with some popcorn and hot chocolate. Or maybe trying out new paints, colors, or other art materials.

holiday fun in the snowIn some areas, the weather may be calling families outdoors. There have been photos of sand “snowmen” at warm beach areas and swimming in warmer waters for families taking a winter vacation. Some other families were trying out new ski and snow equipment that had been under the tree as they headed off for a winter adventure. Swimming or sledding might be happening for families staying close to home too. Time in nature is often a great way to de-stress. A walk around the neighborhood or hike in a nearby park can give both kids and adults a way to release worries and tension. No matter the weather, when dressed for the temperature, time outside can both revive and relax.

jador-train1Back inside, we could all use some time to PLAY. Kids often have some new toys and games. One of the highlights of the holidays is having more time together. Is there a puzzle you could do with your child? Maybe there’s a board game that families can play or a craft activity. A new train can go round and round for hours.

work can be child's playTo a child, work can seem like play. There might be decorations to take down or dishes to put away. In the kitchen, it can be fun to cut up some vegetables for making soup with leftovers. Laundry never seems to take a holiday and kids can help. You or your child can pretend to be laundry monsters that look around for items that need washing. Gleefully feed anything dirty to the washing machine to get gobbled up. The dryer spits them out ready to be folded and put away into the drawer monster.

For more than a few, the day after Christmas can be for traveling. Being in a car or plane with kids can be anything but a present, but the memories, bonds, and holiday time together will last a lifetime. Happy ‘rest of the’ holidays!

Parents Are Children’s First Teachers and Playdates

Parents Children’s First Teachers, Home First School and Playground Have you heard the saying that parents are children’s first teachers and do you have worries, concerns, and a long list of questions about what to do? Often, parents and caregivers are reluctant to try some activities because they worry if they are good enough, think … Continue reading Parents Are Children’s First Teachers and Playdates