As most of you know, I review kid apps for various smartphones and tablets. As a new Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board member, I’ll be seeing a lot of toys over the next year too. Yet, I think it is important to remember that play doesn’t always have to have bells and whistles.
Toys, apps, puzzles, and dolls all help kids create imaginary places or be imaginary things, but so can other basic objects. That’s where we, as parents or caregivers, come in. It is easy to rely on the iPad or the board game to provide the stimulus and play opportunity. However, we need to think outside the box, in order to teach our kids to think outside the box too.
On a rainy day recently, we put away the iPad and the Playskool Ball Popper, and pulled out empty water bottles and a blue ball. We created our own bowling alley in our family room.
Since my son is only two, we focused on setting the bottles (using the opportunity to count).
And, of course knocking them down. (Sometimes with the ball…and sometimes not.)
For an older child, you can expand the play opportunity. Create homemade score sheets, find prizes that someone can win (maybe extra dessert that night or a pass on setting the table) and simulate a real game. It can be done inside on a rainy day or outside on a sunny day.
Keep a collection of bottles, paper towel rolls, and boxes in the basement, garage or closet. Pull them out from time to time to see what sparks the imagination, and to give everyone a break from technology and toys. It will expand the cognitive development of a child, but, frankly, a simple break will make the toys and tech-gear seem fresh and new again too.
All in all, the act of play should spur imagination. But sometimes, imagination itself, is what spurs the act of play.