The importance of playtime
Do you feel like your everyday playtime activities have become stale or boring for your child — and yourself? Make playtime more interesting for everyone with these creative everyday playtime enhancers, ideas and tips.
When you encourage your children to engage in playtime, you’re helping your child build essential learning skills. Some of these learning skills include:
- Social interaction
- Decision making
Do you have to be involved in every minute your child is playing? Not exactly, according to Healthy Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website for parents and caregivers. Independent playtime is essential for growth and can be a relaxing form of downtime for a child. But with busy family schedules, the AAP encourages parents to actively make time for playtime.
Children are curious and will initiate play no matter what the situation, but quality playtime includes a healthy mixture of structured activities, independent play, creative play and age-appropriate interaction.
Children often mimic their parents, peers and use their imaginations when dressing up or playing make believe. Children naturally explore this type of play, but here are some creative ways you can enhance make-believe playtime for your child.
- Make your own placemats: Each tea party can become a different theme with some paper and colored markers. Teach your child how to set the table by drawing where the plate, cup and utensils go on the placemat or celebrate a pretend birthday or special occasion — like using the potty for the first time.
- Practice pouring: Pouring is a great way to build independence, coordination and practice cause and effect. Use dried pinto beans instead of water to eliminate messy spills or take the tea party outdoors on a warm day. When your child spills the water or beans, offer up easy solutions on how to clean up, encourage that your child keep trying and praise your child when he or she accomplishes the task.
Tied in Knots
- Have everyone stand in a circle.
- Reach out with their left hand, and grasp someone's hand.
- Reach out with the right hand, and grasp someone else's hand. Each player must be holding hands with two different people.
- Challenge them to undo themselves into a circle.
It can work with any size group, but small to medium size groups work best. Once you get over 9 people, split them into two groups.
The groups must always have an even number so the leader may have to get involved too
- Take an old shoe box with a lid and have a friend place a "mystery object" inside.
- Tape the lid closed and try to figure out what's inside by sliding it back and forth, shining a light in it, tapping on it with a pencil, etc.
- The only thing you can't do is open it up and look inside!
- Take turns trying different objects (removable painter's tape would make it easier to open and close the box).
This idea comes from the Newton's Apple website.
In the most common game, a list of items is handed out to the players. They can form teams or work individually. The winner is the player or team that find the most items on the list.
Here are some ideas for lists that could be used depending on the location.
heart shaped rock
a white sandal
red flower petal
twig with two bends in it
- Each item on the list could be assigned points depending on how difficult it would be to find that item. A bent stick could be worth 1 point, while a 1989 penny could be worth 10 points.
- Rather than a list, assign each team a color. The winner is the team that finds the most objects that fit their category. If a team was assigned blue, they might come back with a candy wrapper with blue writing, a blue pen, a blue shirt, a blue piece of paper. Teams should only be given points for one of an item (only one pair of blue jeans would be counted).
- Assign each team a shape (circle, square, triangle, ...). If the shape is triangle they might find a rock with a triangle edge, a key chain with a triangular link or charm, and a pyramid. Teams could decide in advance if they think one shape will be harder to find. The team that gets the more difficult shape could get more points for each item they find.
- For younger children, use clipart or drawings to create the list. Or assign teams partnering a younger child with someone who can read.
Different Types of Treasure Hunts
If all players have a camera, they could have a photographic treasure hunt. Use this idea if players would be collecting items in sensitive eco-system. In a park, the list could include things like a blue flower, a bird a prey, and insect with red on it, ... Players have to take pictures of each item as they find it.
Pick a theme or topic you want the players to learn more about. Either provide books, internet access, a library, or other resources. Ask them to list as many facts about the topic as possible in a set amount of time. At the end, have each team read out their fact list. If another team has the same fact, scratch it off both lists. The team with the most unusual facts wins. For example, if the topic is dinosaurs, every team might write down that dinosaurs are extinct.
Choose a word and have players list songs with that word in the title. If the word is 'star', the list could include songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, When you Wish Upon a Star, A Star is Born.
Create a list of unusual questions and then give the list to a group of people who don't know each other. As they go around trying to fill in names for each question, they will learn about each other. The list could include:
- who was born before 1950
- who has a birthday in July
- who has been to Russia
- who has worked on a farm
- who has worked in an Italian restaurant.
If you know the people, use facts that are important to why the group has gotten together. Or just use random questions and see how many people fit the list.
Be sure to talk to players about respecting the environment, asking permission before taking personal property, and using good judgment when they are collecting items. Depending on the location, you may need to discuss health and safety issues too!