“For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play. ~ Penelope Leach (psychologist and author)
Children experience the world around them in awe and wonder. They learn by observing and imitating which is why play is so crucial in early childhood. Role playing teaches valuable skills that will help young children as they enter into the school years. Problem solving and reading readiness are just two of the many skills that can be cultivated through pretend play.
I have listed a few simple and frugal ideas for initiating free play with young children. The more freedom a child is given to explore and create on his or her own the more your child will foster independence and confidence within himself.
Dress Up- Give children some of your old clothes in a laundry basket. They can not only dress up but they can pretend to do laundry.
Boxes- Children love cardboard boxes! Large ones can make houses and cars while smaller boxes can become building blocks. Give children crayons and stickers to decorate them with.
Grocery Store- Empty food containers and bags make excellent grocery store material. Children love pretending to shop.
Play-dough- Give children cookie cutters and kitchen utensils to create play-dough masterpieces with. Children can spend hours working with play-dough. Here is my favourite play-dough recipe
Play Dough Recipe:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”. Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food colouring during kneading process. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container or plastic sandwich bag.
As one can see, opportunities for children to play don’t have to be expensive or complicated. They simply need the encouragement and the time to nurture free play. There are endless way to foster this development in young children. I hope that these few suggestions will spark some ideas for you to create a playful atmosphere in your home or classroom.