When acting as a caregiver, instructor, or parent of a child, it is your responsibility to guide them on the way to their developmental milestones. Playtime is an excellent way to achieve this. Play isn’t just a way to pass the time; it holds many benefits towards the growth of the mind and body.
To fully reap the benefits of playtime, it is a good idea to have a designated play space for your child. Play spaces create an environment of comfort, and help promote more focused play. It is easy for daycares, after-school care or playgroups with large rooms, to dedicate the space for play alone, but what can you do at home? Here are a few easy ideas to help make a safe, effective and fun play space:
1. If you have the space and can convert a portion of a room or a whole room into a playroom, that’s great. But simply placing toys in a room isn’t all there is to it. Think about adding some durable surfaces that are easy to wipe down – make sure you won’t get upset if something is spilled on them! Kid-size tables are great for toddlers, can be found fairly inexpensively, and are excellent for crafts. Consider allowing your child to help you paint an old table to make it more fun.
2. Add some pops of colour to the room to make it interesting and fun for a child. You can use rugs, pillows or chairs that are easily interchangeable as the child gets older, or you want to re-decorate. Remember that a child’s eye is a lot lower than yours. Try to place some visuals in their line of sight; posters, alphabet or number stickers, or family photos will capture young children’s attention.
3. Kids love to see their artwork on display. When you run out of fridge space, create an art display dedicated to their art. Add some corkboards to a wall that you can put drawings and paintings on, or run a line with clothespins to hang art where they can see it. Chalkboard paint is an excellent way to foster a child’s creativity. Pick some up at the hardware store and paint a section of the wall (at their level) with it. If you don’t want to paint directly on the wall, paint a piece of plywood (or other board) and mount it to the wall. That way, the kids get to enjoy it, but you don’t have to stress about how permanent it is.
4. Storage and organization is possibly the most important part of a play space. Providing somewhere for children to store their favourite toys not only keeps the area clean and functional, but also decreases the chance of losing toy parts. Try using different bins to store different types of toys and using photos of the contents to label them. Children can help put toys away by easily seeing what belongs inside them.
5. Provide different activities for your child to do in their play space. Add toys, books, art supplies, puzzles, dress up, and any of their other interests. What they love one day may change the next, but by supplying a variety of options to choose from you ensure their attention is kept longer and all areas of play are explored and tried.
6. Assisted play is an opportunity for you to get involved with your child. Encourage them to try new toys and areas of play. If your child is always playing with cars, try putting out blocks and dinosaurs and prompting them to play with just those items for 30 minutes. This helps develop their imagination, and it’s fun to see where their ideas take them.
7. You may be staying at a relative’s house and they don’t have room for your child’s things, or your own space may be limited. That doesn’t mean you can’t still create a positive indoor play area. Use painter’s tape to make a large square (or several different shapes) and tell the child they have to stay within the shape while playing with their toys. This eliminates mess all over and creates a more focused playtime. When all else fails, just use your imagination. Any area, and many objects, can be used to contribute to playtime. Create a car track around the living room floor with painter’s tape (see here) or use boxes to make a fort and play area. The ideas are endless.
It is important for children to feel like they have a space where they can be creative and explore their imagination. Designated play spaces give them the freedom to do whatever their heart desires, without causing you fear that your priceless antique vase will get knocked over!