Kids are full of surprises. There they are, tearing off the wrapping paper on a colourful new toy only to toss it aside and start playing with the packaging. You might even feel a little disheartened (it took me hoursto find that toy!) but there’s more to their choice than meets the eye. Young children can become fascinated by the simplest things, from an empty box to an old piece of clothing. These interactions offer amazing insight into what playtime really means to our little ones: a chance to discover and explore this new and exciting world they’ve found themselves in.
Playtime encourages creative thinking and plays an important role in physical and cognitive development from their days in nappies through to primary school and beyond. It can teach kids about sharing, compromise, morals, navigating arguments, language, problem solving and so much more, and also gives older children the chance to develop their personality by discovering new passions and interests. Toys can help, but everyday objects are just as good during the early stages – and if you save a little money along the way, what’s not to like?
To us, it’s just a box. To a child it can be a car, a house or its own little world. For extra points, see if you can find one big enough for your child to clamber in and out of. You can also grab an empty tissue box, gather some different sized objects and turn it into a DIY shape sorter.
2. Sheets, pillows and blankets
It’s time to build a pillow fort! Use any linen you have lying around to turn the living room into a whole new environment for your child to explore. Something as simple as a sheet between two chairs can create a cute little hidey-hole.
3. Containers and lids
Some children can spend all day fiddling with a plastic container, figuring out how to remove the lid and put it back on. Mix up a few different sizes and see if they can work out how to match them up. Be patient, it might take some time.
4. Plastic cups
Cups are great for kids because they are perfect for collecting and sorting items. It’s a bonus if they are stackable, just make sure they are plastic but durable so they don’t accidentally break them.
5. Water bottles
Why buy a rattler when you have a water bottle? Fill it with anything from beads to rice and your child will love the shifting weight and the sound it makes as they shake it around.
Utensils are tools, and kids love playing with tools and discovering what different ones can be used for. Whisks are great for fluffing up bubble baths, wooden spoons can become rhythm sticks – let them use their imagination!
7. Cardboard tubes
Don’t throw away the cardboard tube left from toilet roll or paper towels: collect a few then start joining them together to create pipes for your child to look and drop objects through. You can even stick a few to the wall in a pattern to make a DIY tube drop game.