Even though I wish all summer could be spent outside rainy days or too hot days means more time inside and for antsy toddlers that can be hard. This activity occupied my 2 year old for a good 40 minutes and she had fun too. Below are a few tips on how to make play like this last longer without sparing the fun.
- Gather your materials. We grabbed an apron, a pot, some corks, spoons and a ladle . We also used dish soap half way through.
- Start by filling the sink and asking your child if they want to cook.
- Let them play.
- Without prompting she through corks in and then scooped them out and into the pot. Can you say hand eye coordination development ?
- She mixed and splashed . When she was tiring of it I asked if she wanted to look at all the different tools for cooking. She loved the whisk.
- Next I asked if she wanted bubbles…of course that was a yes too .
- The whisk was extra fun in the bubbles. She even caught a cork.
- For us the sign that she was done was that these big waves turned into let’s make Mama wet even after reminders that the water stays in the sink. You will find your child’s own end signs where gentle redirection fails and every day will be different, some days this will last a long time others it just won’t. It’s not you or your child it’s just the way it is, if it fails try again another day.
Throughout the pretend play I followed her lead. She told me it was cheese soup and I asked her questions about her cheese soup, about cooking etc… I know that pretending doesn’t come naturally to all parents but try to at least ask a few questions and indulge their imaginations. It’s ok to feel silly sometimes even if it doesn’t come naturally.
Pretend play is such an important part of preschool learning and while we do our fair share of just crawling around like cats and putting on bad English accents and pretending to be Harry Potter and friends we also love pretend play set ups like this one. Setting the scene can boost endless play possibilities especially with kids that aren’t self starters for pretend play. Don’t tell them how to play, just set the scene and play along or let them fly solo. Store play is great for incorporating learning about money, talking about manners, reading and even sorting things. Don’t worry about fitting in a lesson though – play is the lesson, let it happen.
- Gather your materials. The best part of this activity is that you use what you have and one thing most families have a lot of are toys. My son loves to keep his toy packages and I finally found a good use for them! You may also want to grab some paper, markers, and painter’s tape. For some store props try a name badge, phone and cash register. If you don’t have a play cash register ( we don’t ) I find an old lap top works perfectly.
- Start by making signs for the sections of the store. This is the bulk of the prep for this scenario. This is great for reading especially for emergent readers who with the aid of the context can successfully read many of the signs. A Price chart offers the chance to read numbers as well.
- Next organize the room or part of the room as a store with some simple displays. I loved doing this and as you will see my son shares that love.
- As soon as I was done arranging it was time to pick up my son from school and play. I usually set these up as surprises … he loved it .
- My daughter claimed the cashier job .
- My son read the prices.
- My son immediately ran to his room to get more Lego to step up.
- My daughter helped me find a baby doll. Then refused to sell it to me. She’s still learning the concept that customers are always right.
- As everyone knows when you work in a toy store the best part is you can test the merchandise – which is what we did the rest of the afternoon after nap and a new pair of PJs.
I really encourage you to pretend with your kids whether it’s a big event pretend play like this or the random and magical ones when they walk up to you and announce that they are no longer your child they are in fact a wizard… oh and you are too. It’s so important for them to imagine , to practice life skills and try on different roles in a safe place . So imagine with them and play.
Pretend play is probably my favorite part of early childhood education because there are countless lessons hidden in every pretend play scenario. We turned our playroom into a vet clinic simply by mixing a few stuffed animals with our trusty doctor kit and rearranging the furniture. It was fast for me to set up and both kids enjoyed taking care of their animals. Along the way they learned about body parts, empathy and my son and I had a nice chat about prescriptions and why it’s important to only ever take medicine the doctor has specifically prescribed for you .
- Gather your materials. You will need some stuffed animals, a play doctor kit , some paper, a clip board, marker , and a bench or table to use as an exam table. I added a basket for my daughter who wanted to tuck her patients into bed after she examined them.
- Set up a waiting area with furniture and books – our books were all about dogs and cats, you can check out our reviews after the tutorial.
- Set up an exam room. I labeled each area and encourage you to as well, it helps deepen the play as well as adds some reading to the activity.
- Make a check list for older kids who are reading and either have them write or circle answers. Can you tell I did this in a hurry? It was almost time to get my son from school. Best thing is he didn’t care, as long as he could read it no need to be perfect!
- Play! My daughter examined her cat trying out each instrument and having just had her own 18 month old check up she was familiar with many of them. I chatted with her as she played but didn’t intervene unless she interacted with me. I did pretend to nurse the cat as per her request.
- She loves her patients!
- With my son I pretended to be the dog and cat’s owners but followed his lead.
- We worked in measurement and gave the pup a little oxygen.
- The puppy got a clean bill of health!
Books About Cats and Dogs
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (If You Give… Books) by Laura Numeroff is one of the newer “If You Give…” series. I like this one , I mean any book with a cat in a bathing suit is worth a look. I am a big fan of these stories not only because they have just the right amount of text for young preschoolers, but also because the illustrations by Felicia Bond are so detailed you can spend ages talking about what your child sees in the book after the words are read. I love the cause and effect , and after a few readings your child will have fun telling you what’s next.
Otto Goes to Bed by Todd Parr is a really fun and positive book. Otto is a dog who doesn’t want to go to bed, he wants to play, chase his tail and a bath and brushing teeth don’t help. Instead he figures out that there is something he likes about bedtime, dreaming! I like that this book addresses that going to bed feels like missing out on things for kids, I know I felt like that for years. Instead of blankly saying “Sleeping is great” or “You have to go to bed” this book finds something positive about going to bed . The illustration of Otto as a super hero dog makes my son howl with laughter every time.
Otto Goes to the Beach by Todd Parr was a steal of a deal at the Goodwill ! I got a hardcover in perfect condition for 70 cents. My bargain hunting aside, I really enjoy this book as did my son. Otto is a dog who goes to the beach but no one wants to do the same things as he does, even the fish swim the other way! In the end after feeling very sad Otto finds a new friend and all his misery is forgotten. I love Todd Parr books, I love the insanely bright colors, the cute simplistic illustrations and I love the messages they send. This book followed his other books perfectly and provided a great final message about not giving up finding a friend who will like all the same things you do!
This post was shared on Nurture Store’s Play Academy
My kids have been busy playing with their new toys, my son has been building Legos and my daughter has been pushing babies around the house with her new buggy. I wanted to do something special to celebrate the amazing year we had so while they were playing I ran upstairs, found the bin of art and made an art gallery of their 2011 creations. It was a fun way to spend snack time and look back at our favorite pieces from 2011.
- Gather your materials. You will need your children’s art , painters tape ( so you don’t muck up the walls) , some snacks ( all gallery openings have snacks! ) , as well as something to use as a sign, and to write a blurb about the artists.
- I sorted through my kids’ art that made it to the keep bin in my son’s closet. I have a canvas bin in the corner of this closet that we run art into that passes the keep test. I also put in almost everything my daughter makes. She’ll get her own bin soon.
- I put the art up at their and slightly above their eye level. I was careful to have things my daughter made at a level she could touch… and as you will see that was a huge hit with her to be able to touch the pieces she made, and is clearly proud of.
- Make a sign for the door.
- Don’t forget a blurb about the artists.
- I put out art related books in the reading nook too.
- Add some snacks.
- Invite your guests of honor. I wish I’d done this when my parents were still in town because my kids loved seeing their art and showing it off to their dad, they would have loved showing it off to their grandparents too.
- I loved that she gravitated towards her own art.
- My son showed off the pieces he loved making – marshmallow art is his favorite. No clue why.
- After her brother had his treats , and gave a quick gallery talk about when he made this or that he went back to legos, but my daughter stayed looking forever. I see many more museum trips in our future, although she has already been to one of my favorite museums with me.
- Then we read a few books and quietly had another cookie. Here are some great fine art books to check out .
Happy New Year !
I love having a project set up for my son when he gets home from school before he gets involved in his own play . Yesterday he arrived home to this simple Santa’s Workshop set up. This wasn’t a long afternoon of play , but it was 30 minutes of smiles and giggles and pretending he was an elf! He also did some crafting, some deep thinking , reading, a little writing and of course imaginative play. Remember that your set up need not be worthy of a Broadway production, just good enough to support play.
- Gather your materials. I made 3 stations in this workshop a building station, a toy testing station and a wrap station. My materials included paper bag, glue ( I switched it to a glue stick), scissors, wrapping paper, construction paper, markers , plain paper , a clip board and some toys.
- For the Duplo Building Station I used black construction paper down the middle of the table to act as a conveyer belt, made simple buildings with the duplo and provided duplicate blocks in containers for my son to build. There is actually a really great lesson in duplication here. Following directions is an important skill and lego type toys are a great way to work on the skills non verbally.
- The Wrap Station is our craft component – I provided glue, scissors, markers , snowflake confetti, wraping paper scraps to cut and glue and paper bags.
- The Toy Testing Station had some reading for him to do , and questions to answer after he tested the toy. I snuck some circle drawing in too!
- Think he was excited to see it? He said to me ” Do I really get to pretend to be an elf? Really?”
- Getting into the elf character .Building the duplo !
- Making the gift bags.
- All wrapped up.
- Off to test a toy.
- Test results.
- Happy, busy and at the North Pole … at least in his imagination!
How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow is a great book to go along with this activity. The book is styled as an expose about how Santa and his many many elves get all the work for Christmas done. I will caution you now that this is a long book, with even longer asides. I made my son head up to bed with me and the book early inorder to get it read and still have time to chat about it after. I love the “insider” feel about this book and so did my son. There were many asides thta made both of us giggle especially the comment about how many requests Santa gets for ponies each year. I loved that it encouraged kids to write to Santa but I have to say I sorta miss that it didn’t include much about magic. Still I can’t tell you how much my son loved this book ( I knew he would) and how impressed I was when he asked me if I thought this was how it worked. That opened a great discussion about how we imagine the North Pole and how stories andmovies are just one person’s imagination and no one knows the truth . This is a completely secular view of Christmas too so if you are looking for a religious book this is not for you but you can try these ones.
This post contains affiliate links