When I chat with parents who are really struggling to make time for play, I hear a lot of comments like “I don’t have space for a dedicated play room” or “My kids just aren’t interested in playing with their toys without me. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but they just don’t seem to want to play.” And if you’ve felt this way, you’re certainly not alone.
Personally, we’ve found toy rotation to be an absolute game changer for our family. But it really comes down to having dedicated spaces to encourage play and in this blog today, I’m going to share what I believe makes a play space purposeful and I’ll share a few quick tips for removing the overwhelm and making your spaces accessible and inviting!
A purposeful play space is simply a space that invites our little learners to play! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times but play is the work of a child. We just want to provide our little learners with loads of opportunities to play! We want them to be able to direct their own play with confidence and our job is to make that so incredibly easy for our children.
But let me make this super clear. The goal isn’t to throw all their stuff in a room and hope for the best. This is especially true for our youngest children but they don’t really like to go off into a room on their own to play. They want to be close by to us so they can interact and also feel safe and secure that they’re okay! When we put them in a playroom to play all alone, it’s actually not developmentally appropriate for most children.
We also don’t want to have absolutely everything out and available all the time. Sometimes less is more especially when it comes to toys. If you think back to a time when someone has asked what you want for dinner, you probably sat there running through all the possibilities, unable to make a decision.
But if someone asks you to choose between Pizza and Thai, you can probably make that decision a lot faster! The same goes for our children – when faced with all these possibilities, sometimes it’s easier to just choose nothing or to dump all the toys out onto the floor and run off.
Take some time to evaluate the spaces your children play in. Are their toys placed out in a way that invites your child to come and explore? Sometimes big tubs full of toys will just invite your child to tip everything out and then they’re left with a big mess!
Just pop a few pieces in a low basket on a shelf where they can easily access it, especially if you have a young toddler! They don’t need an entire set of blocks. Just by limiting the amount of pieces, we’re actually making the space a little more inviting and less overwhelming!
Try sitting on the floor at the height of your child. What can they see? Can they access everything independently or do they need your help? We want to set them up for success by making sure they can be totally independent.
Open shelving with toys placed in shallow baskets will make it so easy for your child to find something to explore. A well organized space not only invites your child to explore, but it makes clean up time an absolute breeze and it also encourages your child to respect their environment.
Take some time to reflect on your play space. Is it close to where you spend most of your time during the day? Does your child have access to you while you go about your day or are you off in another room? Are your toys presented in a way that’s inviting, accessible and organized? Can you pop some toys in a basket or lay them out on the floor in a new way to capture their interest? Could you start a small toy rotation?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the toys in your home, you might like to consider whether toy rotation would be a good fit for your family. I’ve prepared a free eBook with my 5 step process for getting started with toy rotation which you can download below!
I’d love for you to choose just one thing to focus on today and make one little tweak and then tag me on Instagram at @littlelifelonglearners so I can see! Sometimes the smallest tweak can make all the difference when it comes to promoting play in your home!
Remember – little tweaks over time amount to BIG changes and progress in the long term. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, be sure to grab a free copy of my Toy Rotation eBook which will guide you through the process of getting started with toy rotation.