It is already February – the year is moving fast! Christmas is well and truly in the past and our kids’ rooms are full with new toys – often more than they can handle! The floor is in a mess and we can hardly see the carpet… and yet they come up to us and say they are bored!!!

This conversation usually plays out in someone threatening to get a big rubbish bag and bin all the new toys! How can they be bored with so many toys around, and most of them are only a month old? Did Santa get it all wrong?

Recently I came across an interesting quote saying that “the more the toy does the less the child does, and the less the toy does the more the child does.”

This really got me thinking, especially since we at Parkside Early Learning Centre in Gympie believe in play-based learning. Research has shown how important play is for children: Maria Montessori, known for her work in early childhood education and childcare, said:” Play is the work of a child.”; and Albert Einstein once said “Play is the highest form of research”. So, if your children spend extended time playing, they are in fact hard at work and researching the world.

But then my next question is what exactly is play and is any kind of play good?

We say ‘our children are playing’ when they are actively engaged with others in the sandpit building sandcastles, when they are solitary engrossed pushing trains around on their tracks or when they act out real life situations in the family corner pretend cooking or dressing up. And all this is work or research? Well, yes, it is! Children participating in play such as this practise and acquire important social skills, they explore ways of doing things or experiment what happens when we pour too much sand or water in a container. They gain confidence as they progress in the skills they acquire and learn to understand the world around them better.

Play often involves all 5 senses – this is the way children learn best. We see this in little babies: they turn their head when they hear a tune, they stick everything in their mouths or squish things with their little hands. Older children use their senses to explore textures, make sounds with instruments or use their eyes to follow a bird or butterfly. At our childcare centre in Gympie, Parkside Early Learning, we expose the children to lots of sensory experiences like painting, messy play like swishing shaving foam around, hiding animals in rice or making slime. We allow the children to explore real life natural materials like pine cones, seeds, drift wood or pumice stone rocks. They love it!

So back to the toys…Do we need them and what are good toys? Are we wasting our money on the shiny noise making toys advertised on TV as must haves?

Toys are objects for children to play with. Some toys on offer these days seem to do a lot and attract our children’s attention but, soon after every button has been pressed, the excitement wanes and the attention of our child moves away quickly (and we are disappointed about all the money we spend). Toys like that usually have a set of activities requested from the child and, once completed, the child can’t develop any further skills and a new toy is needed.

Creative Toys 2

Some people mention the ‘good old days’ when they played with sticks and stones. They became swords, cookies or counters in games. And they cost NOTHING! All can be called toys but there seem to be toys that require more imagination and that brings us back to the quote from the beginning that some toys do a lot and require little input from the child and others do little but engage the child’s imagination a lot more. Children need to develop a bright imagination in order to become good thinker outside the box and problem solvers. Imagination helps develop the children’s cognitive skills and they became more adaptable. All these are skills our children need in order to get school ready and later in adult working life.

Creative Toys 3

So, maybe, as parents we need to be more adventurous and send them outside more, allow them to climb trees, play with sticks, stones, sand and water (and hide some of the old toys). At Parkside Early Learning centre, we are very fortunate being located next to a lovely park – we have gone over there for picnics, to collect natural materials which we later used for art, craft or play, and to watch birds and insects. As parents, we are called to be role models for our children. So, let’s get down on the floor, grab an old pot, some water and leaves and make some delicious soup. Help you child develop creativity and, on the way, you might make some of the best memories of play with your child and re-develop your own creativity!

childcare, early learning centre, kindergarten, kindy, day care, gympie, child care, parenting 

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