Tags: pretend play
Children love a bit of messy play and this spell of fine weather gives the perfect opportunity to make potions in the garden! Give your little ones a selection of little pots and a large mixing bowl and encourage them to find different ingredients to make a potion. Stir together sand, water, leaves, some small stones, perhaps some flowers such as daisies or dandelions. Look for small items around the garden that can all be mixed together.
Talk with your little one about what the different ingredients do? Perhaps the flowers make it taste sweeter, perhaps grass cuttings and leaves help to turn the drinkers skin a green colour? Pebbles might be to help make the potion more digestible, strips of bark from trees and a few twigs may give you strength.
Of course, stress that this is only pretend and that your little one shouldn't really drink it, but at the same time, fire up their imagination and see what they can pretend this potion is for. Describe the different textures of the ingredients and discuss whether they make the potion easier to stir, or lumpy, or change colour and so on. Observe the changes as more ingredients are added. Above all, have fun!
Your little ones simply adore copying what you do, and when your working in the kitchen, nothing will make them happier than to play with the same kitchen implements that you use - wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks and bowls. Of course, they don't need to mess up your lovely kitchen utensils, although nylon and wooden ones would be perfectly safe for them, you can also buy whole sets of kitchen utensils from any toy store.
Pretend kitchen play is a valuable pastime for all kids. At a physical level they are learning about materials and honing their fine motor skills as they drop ingredients into bowls and stir them. They are also growing their understanding of how food is prepared, learning what is involved and about where their meals come from.
As they grow older you can move from pretend utensils to real ones, and from play food to real 'dried foods' (such as pasta, dried fruit, cereal etc.) and on to genuine cooking. Next time you are in a supermarket, take a look in the home baking aisle and you will find all manner of easy foods that you can whip up with the kids.
Here are some simply foods that you can buy from the supermarket and which even the youngest children can 'cook':-
- 'Shake and bake' fairy cakes - just add milk, put into cake cases and bake
- Home bake scone mix - just add water (and raisins if you like), mix, roll, cut and back
- Home made muffin mix - just add a little oil, water and an egg, put into cases and bake
- Fresh croissant or pain au chocolate - sometimes difficult to find in the supermarket (try the chiller cabinets where ready made pastry is), fresh dough comes in a tube; open, shape the pastries onto a baking tray and bake
- Pizza - buy a fresh base and spread with your favourite toppings; start with a plain dough and add passata and cheese, or buy a Margherita and add your own flavours. Cook as per instructions
All these products can be prepared in around 5 minutes and baked in around 20, and can form a part of the children's real meals. Try to cook with your children at least once a week and they will have a whale of a time!
According to a new study, rivalry between brothers and sisters can be a good thing when they are toddlers and it can have a positive effect on their development. Cambridge University carried out the study over a five year time span and found that of the 140 children studied, their cognitive and social development was enhanced if they were a sibling.
The research looked at the younger of 2 siblings in various environments: alone, with the family, with friends and at school. Their language, memory, planning skills and inhibitory control were studied and found that the younger sibling had a better social understanding thanks to the teasing of older brothers and sisters. 80% of children have siblings.
Pretend play was very interesting to the study authors, as it found that the younger siblings who entered into pretend play, games that often lasted in different sessions over a few days, were able to articulate, discuss their thoughts and feelings much better than those who didn't.
They also found that sibling bickering was a "useful" tool and that its the start of a skill to resolve disagreements in later life although they did say that sustained sibling rivalry into school years could be detrimental. Relationships change over time, that is natural, but the way that siblings are natural allies is a beneficial thing.
Young children, boys and girls, love camps - there's nothing better than a 'secret' place where they can hide from grown ups and feel inside a world of their own. As summer approaches, it becomes easier to build camps outdoors. Find a secluded spot in the garden and fashion some branches into a cover, or use an old sheet and drape it from the fence. You can even buy tents for next to nothing these days - the kids will go mad for that!
During colder months, and on days when the weather's not so good, you can build camps indoors. Erect your masterpiece in a spot where the children won't get in the way, bearing in mind that it may have to stay up for a few days! Use sheets or large towels, draped from furniture to radiators, or over clothes horses. Use clothes pegs to help secure your materials in place.
Young children love enclosed spaces in which to play. It really does become their own world set apart from the real one, and gives them a place that is theirs, where you cannot follow. They will quickly stockpile teddies, dinosaurs, dolls, tea sets, cars and all manner of kids' paraphernalia! Let them loose in their imaginative play, it's great for them to engage in pretend play, especially if they voice scenes between animals or teddies which helps them develop their language and thinking skills. Listen to them discretely from a distance and they will bring joy to your heart!
When it comes to pretend play, children are perfectly happy to mix toys made to different scales - size just isn't important to them! Your toddler might hold a tea party for a few dolls and teddies. The participants may vary in size from very small to really large, but your toddler will be oblivious to the variation. They might have a small, dinky china tea set, complimented by plastic or wooden cookies and slices of cake that dwarf the tea pot - but size doesn't matter. They may sit around a blanket on the floor offering enough room for the whole family to enjoy a picnic round, but scale is really of no consequence!
During pretend play, children will happily play with lots of different toys, all made to different scales, but they are as contented as can be! Indeed, they'll even happily mix toys from different paradigms, such as dinosaurs on a farm, a shop that sells anything under the sun, or serve pizza for afternoon tea!
The important point is that children partake in pretend play. As they play with objects and act out little scenarios either on their own, with siblings or friends or with you, they are practicing all sorts of different actions which help them develop their motor skills, they will practice language as they talk through each scene, and learn how objects made from different materials act and how they can be handled.
Play is important for every child and for the first few years of their lives, babies and toddlers learn a huge amount during what they consider to be 'play'. This is why teaching through play is such a great way to guide and educate our children because the message gets through, they learn and yet it all happens while they are having fun, playing!
During play, children expand their understand of the world, their understanding of themselves, and indeed their understanding of other people. Once children play together, it is also a way to start communicating with other children and sharing ideas and games.
By six months, children have learned, through trial and error, various sequences that they practice. If they push a ball, it rolls! They see that something happens and they like the feeling of it happening. They are learning to grip and drop and use their hands.
By nine months they might push a ball, crawl to get it and push it again. They master new skills and make the play more interesting and complex for themselves. They use props more and gravitate towards toys they like.
By a year, they are able to be even more accurate with their props/toys. They know a rattle will rattle and can kick or throw or roll a ball.
Types of play
- Sensory play: As they gain confidence and control their games become even more complex. They enjoy the sensation of movement such as swings and slides. They will do things over again to relive the experience.
- Pretend Play: Children begin by being adult led and take the initiative from parents when starting out with pretend play. Once they see what they can do, they may take the lead. They may take familiar roles of doctor, or Dad when playing. They may need, props and costumes and will probably be happy making a dressing gown into a super hero cape or tying a scarf round their head to make a princess veil.
- By 4 or 5, pretend play becomes peer focused and they children will happy to share a pretend game together, working out what to do and who is going to be who in the game. They will discuss the rules of the game, how it will unfold. They may well guide behaviour by suggesting an action. "You'll need to drink your tea before you go to work, Dad." Pre-schoolers will also have to overcome conflict and negotiate.
- Constructive play: Blocks and boxes are used to create a pretend miniature world. This type of play, allows the child complete freedom to create a world of their own.
- Physical Play: Rough and tumble, running games, chasing games are all popular with pre-schoolers. They have more control at this age and can jump, run, climb and chase. Overly aggressive behaviour should be checked, but it's all about learning how to control their body and what they are capable of.
- Organised games: A more logical and formal game arrangement becomes popular between 4 and 5 years old. They can cope with and understand the idea of having rules and are able to follow those rules in order to have a fun game. The idea of competition is introduced and that of winner or loser! Teams are also introduced and the idea of working together for a common goal.
What's our role?
Observe and comment in a positive way to encourage them.
Play with them especially when they are young, It affirms the idea of playing and makes them feel worthwhile if you are willing to play too.
Create a playful atmosphere and allow them to play - give them permission to make some noise or a mess!
Make suggestions if they are stuck.
Ensure everyone plays safely ie. the equipment is safe and that the children behave properly too!
Children love imaginative play and will enjoy our ideas for obstacle courses and treasure hunts! You can adapt these ideas for indoor or outdoor play, and for the garden or a park.
Set up an obstacle course in the garden by taking a variety of items, such as balls, plastic toys (kids' garden tools or some basic toys from inside), string or rope, flower pots and anything else that might be found in the garden. Create obstacles where your children have to balance, weave in and out of hurdles placed on the ground, jump over and climb under things. Create a 'river' with two sticks placed a couple of feet apart and have your toddlers avoid the crocodiles in it by jumping over them. Place a stepping stone in the middle that they must step on. Have them weave in and out of flower pots to avoid a bear that's chasing them! Make up different imaginary obstacles and your children will soon run riot with their own thinking!
If you're stuck inside, you won't have so much space but you can still create snake pits to jump over, furniture to manouvre around and other creative problems to tackle!
Create a treasure hunt by taking stones and wrapping them in foil. Hide them around the garden or indoors and have your children search for them. Keep your obstacles in place, so they still have to take care crossing the river, avoid the bears and so on!
You only need to invent a few different obstructions and imaginary scenes and your children will be happy running around for ages!