Play is a non-negotiable for kids. It’s a need, not a want. It’s the first thing on their minds when they wake up – even before breakfast – and probably also the last thing on their minds before they fall asleep.
As Prime Minister Lee himself also acknowledged in his recent National Day rally speech, we can and should let our children play during these precious preschool years.
However, due to the hurried lives we lead today, the odds seem to stand against play. The increasing attention being paid to academic development and enrichment activities goes against the grain of free and easy child-centered play.
All of that sounds pretty gloomy, but here is the good news. In spite of the competitive environment, you can make a choice to let your kids play. It’s easy and there are so many psychological, cognitive and social benefits to play. As psychologist Lawrence Cohen points out, play is a child’s way of exploring the world, communicating feelings, bonding with their care-givers, and dealing with stress and anxiety.
Most of all, I think play is a child’s special love language, so the more you play with them, the more love they’re receiving!
You don’t need state-of-the-art toys or the latest gadgets. You don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars. All you need is to put on your play-hat. Here are some ideas to get you started…
1. Alphabet workout! – Get your child to do the alphabet using their body. Allow them to use other props if necessary or even an accomplice, especially for letters like “H” (two people standing facing each other and joining hands). Easy fun for the family!
2. Play bowling with recycled drink bottles and a soft ball.
3. Pitch a tent in the living room and pretend you’re going camping.
4. Take out an old muffin tray and let your toddler have fun scooping pebbles from one part to another. Can also try sorting by colours.
5. Put on some fun music and dance with the kids. (Have you tried the Rhinoceros Tap? Hilarious fun!)
6. Make funny faces in the mirror and see who’s the funniest. (Capture these on camera and recap for a good laugh afterwards.)
7. Create a colourful “sand pit” with a large plastic container, some rice grains and food colouring, and give the kids scoops and pails. You can easily turn this into a craft session with some glue and drawing paper, but you may want to lay newspaper on the floor before doing this, or do this at the balcony or outdoors. (Tip: go easy on the food colouring, as a little goes a long way. Let the coloured rice dry first before playing.)
8. Play dress-up!
9. Explore nostalgic games with your kids such as five stones. Adjust the rules of the game according to your child’s age. For example, you can place a small hoop or draw a square on a paper, and ask your child to throw as many stones into the hoop / square as possible!
10. Bedtime silliness! Daddy or mummy gets to piggyback the kids to bed. Alternatively, you can try making a bedtime sandwich – where kids take turns getting squashed in between mummy and daddy. (Caution: Only try this with preschoolers and not infants okay?)
11. Concoct-a-potion using flour, water, food colouring. Try mixing in shaving cream or other gooey stuff lying in your house, just so you can see what happens. Bonus: Put on a wizard’s hat, and pretend you’re mixing a magic potion.
12. Pillow fight!
13. Read a book and act it out. This was actually an idea suggested by a reader on my recent post, We’re going on a bear hunt. The best part about this is that any good book can be inspiration for dramatic play, and you can improvise any way you like using whatever materials or “obstacles” you can find in the home. Great for building the imagination. Alternatively, do some craft-work inspired by the book. For instance, if your child loves The Hungry Caterpillar, you can try out these caterpillar crafts.
14. Peek-a-boo sensory play – this game is good for younger children and infants. Put different materials of different textures into a bag and let your child reach his hand in to touch. Use words to describe each specific material, such as “soft”, “tickly”, “rough”, and “furry”.
15. Name hopscotch – use crayon or chalk to draw boxes, and write each letter of your child’s name on each box, starting with the first box.
16. Crayon rocks – this was quite an accidental discovery. Fellow mum-blogger Evelyn was the one who introduced crayon rocks to me. Besides being easy for little hands to handle, I found that they were good for counting as well. You can also divide the colourful rocks into little groups like we’ve done below, to get a bit of math action. If you’d like to purchase some, you can find them from SG baby mall or FoxySales.
17. Tear paper and guess the animal – Have you ever imagined clouds looking like animals? Well, this is simply that. Give your child different coloured pieces of paper and ask her to randomly tear them into different shapes. Guess what animal or object each piece looks like. You can further build on this game by turning it into a craft session – add on the different parts of the animal’s body onto it using crayons or whatever you have at home.
18. Puppet play – Puppets are fun props to have around the home. You can make them dance to music or better still, rope in the kids and create your own little puppet drama!
19. Pack a picnic and sit around the balcony to enjoy it. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a picnic than in the great outdoors, so this comes a close second. The best part? Get everyone to close their eyes and make-believe they’re at a beautiful garden in a country of your choice. 😉
20. Make goop – Mix 1/2 cup of corn flour and 1/4 cup of water in a bowl, and add 2 to 3 drops of food colouring. It’s like half dough, half body paint. Let the kids play and make a mess just before bath-time.
There! I’ve tried my best to keep these ideas simple and either costing nothing or next to nothing. And I really hope you guys have fun with them!
PS. Let your kids explore and use their imagination. You’ll be surprised to see how they build on a game or reinvent the rules. By all means, let them try different ways to play, and take their cue when they’re tired or want to do something else.