9 May 2013

igniting play

To watch a child at play is to watch a carnival unfold. Surrendering to the twinkly world of imagination their bodies crouch, voices change and hands obsessively forage for the perfect prop. This deep play can erupt at any given time and take poppets on a whirlwind adventure; soaring high in a space shuttle to delving deep beneath the inky sea. Then there are days however when the kindling fails to spark, blocks are shuffled underfoot and a vast toy cupboard provides little inspiration. Boredom gives way to rattiness.

An early childhood teacher's role is to step back from these little cyclones and observe. What is creating conversation, peaking interest and fuelling play? Through questioning they harness ideas and play props director to-ing and fro-ing to the storage cupboard retrieving paraphernalia for their eager cast.  Through such play children project themselves into adult roles, explore language, writing and numbers and initiate social interactions in a safe environment.  When an idea is recognised a small nudge is all that's often needed to walk little people into a new adventure of learning. A cafĂ© scenario, a shop front or a doctor's surgery and a few carefully selected props* to ignite story telling.

We use daily outings and conversations as inspiration for play. Here are some games we've enjoyed playing lately:

Hairdresser  - A recent trip to the hairdresser sparked all manner of questions. I rummaged around for old brushes, combs, a spray bottle, a square of fabric and a peg for a cape, playdough scissors, telephone, paper and pens and a collection of old scrunchies and clips. Some very interesting discussions (and hairstyles) developed.

School Room  -  Sensing some apprehension about starting Kindy this year I set up a very basic kindergarten in our lounge room. A puzzle area, block corner, reading nook and a big chair for the teacher. Bijou used her dolls and soft toys to work through her fears about going to the toilet at Kindy, meal times and making friends. This "game" stayed up for weeks and we explored so many ideas, soothed her worries and increased her confidence and excitement.

Restaurant - Bijou loves to recreate her favourite restaurants at home. We make simple menus with paper and felt pens, set a table with cutlery and glue food images from magazines onto paper plates (you only need do this once them squirrel them away for next time), find a notebook and pen for the waitress and plenty of furry guests to serve.

Vet - We rescued a baby turkey in our backward earlier in the year. Bijou was intrigued with it's care and initiated a vet scenario. We use some stuffed animals, a few bandages, a milk bottle lid sticky taped to some string for a stethoscope, baskets for overnight cage stays, bowls for food and water, hand towels/tea towels for coverings, and an old computer keyboard and paper sticky taped to the wall for a screen.

Art Gallery - I adore how my beautiful friend managed to cull the overload of her poppets' artwork with this magic game.

Play is their work. It's where they expand and flourish and where they ultimately grow.

What play adventures have your children been on lately?

* props needn't be expensive nor the perfect replica of the real thing. Milk bottle lids and cardboard rolls are a teacher's best friends. Bijou played with a homemade stethoscope for many moons until we finally purchased this beautiful doctors' set.

Steph x


  1. Beautiful ideas Steph. We do lots of similar play at home, but I especially love the school room idea, I hadn't thought of that but I'm sure it would help with some of Rileys fears. Thank you. xo

  2. Lovely to read this post. Couldn't agree more about the magic of play; I often find myself mesmerised by how my daughter seems to be " in a different world" when she's deeply engrossed in play. And yes! it can happen anywhere and anytime :-) Such magical moments when everything else can wait.

  3. Gorgeous. I love the school room idea.

  4. All lovely ideas, and you write the most beautiful posts. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lovely ideas Steph!
    It is easy to see the teacher in you :) What a lucky girl your daughter is to have these play opportunities presented to her.

  6. These ideas are just gorgeous (and my goodness, the link to me!) We play cafe's and shops, and the kids get such a hoot when I come and "shop" and they are the check out person...it really is amazing how much they soak in about everyday life! You are such an inspirational mumma dearest! xx

  7. just playing catch up on your beautiful, beautiful blog. Your pictures are so stunning and it just oozes calm. Love it. Love these images of kids role playing with everyday things. My favourite game to play is beauty salon where i get hand massages!


Your words brighten my day! Thank-you so much for joining me on my adventure. x