Young children need play. Developmentally this is the time that they make the connections, they learn most naturally and practice the social skills we may wonder if they will ever get. Because of my blog here and No Time For Flash Cards it is often assumed that I sit with my child for long periods of time doing craft after craft at a table... the reality is , is that mostly we play.
Something that has made a drastic difference for us was giving up a guest room and turning it into a small but effective playroom. I made this transition for free, using only what we already had. His old change table was turned into a bookcase, and 2 crib mattress are covered with a sheet and used as a small couch.
1. Use a closet or a cabinet that you can lock to keep the majority of the toys in. Having the ability to put toys away and rotate them keeps the novelty fresh and play is more focused. Your child won't be overwhelmed and quickly move from one to another ( dumping large bin after bin) if less is out. I keep our closet open while I am in the room but if I am not I close and lock them. I never say no to a request to play with a toy, just limit what's in view so that play is supported.
2. Have an area that is devoted to pretend play. We have a small kitchen in our playroom, it has been turned into a restaurant, a bakery and Starbucks countless times. An area like that offers children a chance to imitate and practice different adult roles. While also learning about things like food and manners.
3. Offer a variety of quiet toys like puzzles and shape sorters. Remember that young children are not bored by repetition, it's comforting so you don't need to rotate toys daily, having the same puzzle out and available for a few weeks before rotating it is great. Having quiet toys helps teach children in a fun way to sit and focus on something quietly. This takes time with many kids but if they are engaged it will happen naturally.
4. Have theme days. I will set up theme days in my son's playroom at night while he is sleeping. I will turn the room into a bakery, or set it up like a vet's office with stuffed animals and when he wakes up it's a special day with all his own toys!
5. Have an area where they can write on a wall or easel. Okay I don't mean they actually write on a wall , but a blackboard or mat they can write on vertically is a must have. The reason it's a must have is that when a child writes vertically their hand and wrists naturally go into the proper position for writing and it promotes the development of the muscles needed.
6. Put up fun posters or better yet your child's art work! One of the best benefits of creating crafts with your child is that they see that they can make something. When you post it it boosts their self esteem and builds pride in their accomplishment.
7. Make sure that any and all furniture in a playroom ( or any room) is properly attached to the wall to prevent accidents. Children are seriously injured and killed by heavy furniture and TVs falling on them. Even if your child isn't a climber it only takes one time.
8. Have specific places for toys. We use bins, shelves and baskets but clean up time is way shorter when everyone knows where things go. Clean up is simple, which means more time for play and a happier mom which means everyone is happier!
9. If you choose to have a TV plug it into a power cord. This was a tip I got from another mom years ago. It's easier to limit TV time once they can turn it on themselves. Simply turn it off at the power cord and when TV time is up, it's up no argument. It's worked wonderfully for us.
I hope one or maybe all of these tips can help you convert a corner of your house and devote it to playing!