If it was my friend Suzie it was little slips of paper, pens, stamps, and a giant ottoman for playing library. We would tip toe around the living room, find hard cover books that were really important looking, and make fancy scribbles on the slips. We ordered the books in a ruler straight spine way and grouped them by the pretty or ugly pictures or by word count.
If it was my friend Heidi, it was a red wagon, beach pails covered with cloth, chapter books tied in bundles, baskets, and bonnets. We were the Ingalls girls out in Minnesota or somewhere on the prairie. We rode to town as Heidi played a double role as horse and Pa as she pulled me on the wagon around the house. It was a bumpy ride as I am sure it was in real life.
Way back before there was dirt, I am sure my grandparents, and their parents, would say all they needed was a rock or stick for play. I believe it. I too, decades later, played in the dirt with rocks, and sticks, with my friend Kelle. We played school in the dirt. We made a giant divided square for a desk with work. We spelled words in the dirt with our stick writing utensil.
Memories of my play are simple, sweet, and now historical. Today, the toy store is full of mind boggling wonders. The telephone on wheels with the rolling eyes, the Slinky that walked downstairs, and the Jack in the Box are either antique or hard to find. They are now replaced by a cell phone with lights and bleeps, a remote Control Robot, and an X Box. And I may be way off and even old fashioned in my accuracy. Santa has to really keep up with the times these days. Sad to say that play now has to be more exciting, more costly, and more larger than life.
I thought our imagination and a few odds and ends was enough. I know from my own play experiences that I call “fabulous” that what I needed to play does not have to be the above mentioned. I also know that in today’s world, simplicity can still open my kids world up to larger than life play.
Ever since reading Out of Sync Child has Fun, and another book on play for autistic children, the play world at my house became not just cars and trucks, and dolls and princess dresses. I’ve discovered a whole new world of sensory pleasure and a broaden your horizons opportunity. (and I mean for every child not just my special needs one) Consider the entertaining and engaging play for kids using simple little play kits:
Ice Skating in the summer- old shower curtain, shaving cream, and bare feet. Aside from the hazard of falling on the driveway and cracking your head open… it was a total blast for my daughter. Or just do it on the grass- a shaving cream slip and slide eh?
Marshmallow Popper: Balloon, foam cup, mini marshmallow- assemble and watch the marshmallow fly. ( I used this for a Pop Goes the Weasel performance and it worked wonders) Just don’t do it in the woods- I wouldn’t want Chippy Chipmunk to choke.
Baking Soda, food coloring, white vinegar, and a tray. Mix liquids squirt on the baking soda. Colorful designs and fizzes all around. ( A mess but worth it- I could cook a whole dinner while kids were occupied with this) As an added bonus -you are teaching high school chemistry at an early age.
Scavenger Hunt- photographs of things around the house, treasure hidden in the house. Kids look at picture go there first and find the next photo. This tells you where to go next and so on until the treasure is found. ( Had this ready for my babysitter and she said our kids did it three times and didn’t care much about the treasure)
Foam shapes, water, bath tub- just get the foam shapes wet and it sticks to the bathtub. We have murals there all the time. Picasso, Rembrandt, look out!
Bucket of Water and soap- colored with food coloring and an old paintbrush- paint the house ( wash off the old spider webs too)
Marble Run- Take a noodle and cut in half the long way. Set it up on an incline such as a stairway- and voila! It’s a winner!
Bubbles in the swimming pool and food coloring- makes swimming glorious! ( in the kiddy pool that is)
Paint toast – clean brush, food coloring and water- they eat colored toast.
I have tried every idea on this list with my own children and others have come by – ( we seem to be the magnet house) and at first because it is NOT the latest and greatest .. the kids are skeptical and hesitant. They have even gone so far as to say- “What’s the fun in this? or “I will just watch.” But then… surprisingly- they all learn the fun in the simplicity of a few things.
We do have a remote control robot. We do have a pretend cell phone. We even have a little computer …for BOTH children.! Yet, play is still simple, fun, and larger than life with more of the play kits I find just around the house already. Happy Play Everyone!