Thursday, 28 October 2010

Fostering Independent Play

Well day 1 of the new toy / activity set up (see previous post) did not go too well. I was quite ill with a cold so things were set up on the fly and I soon ran out of enthusiasm for play (in fact all I wanted to do was to lie down with a lemsip) so requests for the TV were frequent. It soon became clear that 3 activities were not enough. Pip didn't have much of a choice and needed my constant input for entertainment.

So it was back to the drawing board and more internet searching. I struck gold in finding this blog post on independent play by Belinda Butler who writes Everyday Play. It's full of really useful and practical advice. The tip on rotating toys less frequently was really interesting. It goes against all the other advice I've read that rotating toys is supposed to stimulate interest. But having the same toys available all the time enables a child to develop their play and build "their stories" with them. Poor Pip was having to reinvent the wheel each day with a new set of toys!

Day 2 went much better. Whilst she had gone for a walk with Dad, I set up her toy stations around the living room. We had:
  • baby dolls, push chair, blankets, baby bottle
  • farm animals with animal feed (out of date lentils, mung beans and rice)
  • play dough with items from her kitchen set (plates, knife, fork, rolling pin and cookie cutters)
  • paper and crayons
  • a selection of books and puzzles
  • upstairs we had her cars, garage and blocks in her room
All the toys were left out for the day. I stayed close by, trying not to interfere or dictate play. Whether it was the walk or the extra toys, Pip seemed more content and she was able to entertain herself for short periods at a time. I was much more relaxed too. Maybe there is time for a lemsip after all.
Giving baby some juice
We've been continuing this throughout the week, although I've not set up as many stations, the toys are all accessible and Pip was able to get them out of the cupboard or request things. Already I've noticed how she can play for little longer and her play is more imaginative (e.g. her farm animals now need a little nap after they have been fed dried lentils!) The best result was a 20 minute lie-in this morning when she wanted to play with her blocks and cars when she woke up.

Friday, 22 October 2010 we are in the sensorimotor period then...

At the moment I have 4 plastic bins with a selection of toys in each. Every day a new bin is brought down to the living room. To begin with this worked really well and she rediscovered toys that were long forgotten. It also made tidy up time very easy. However the novelty is wearing off and often the toys remain in the bin untouched. I need to find a way to make playing more attractive than the remote control.

Community Playthings have several great leaflets to download, for free, on creating optimum play environments. Although they are aimed at nurseries I'm sure you could use some of the ideas at home. According to their, "Creating Places: Room Layout, Birth to 3." leaflet, toddlers learn through sensory and motor activities. They need to explore materials and move around unhindered. The leaflets recommends:
  • large muscle activities - wheeled toys, rocking toys, playground, walking
  • construction / block corner
  • small world - little figures of people and animals in a setting
  • a home corner of imitation play equipment, i.e. play kitchen, dressing up
  • creative / art area
  • sensory area - messy play, treasure boxes
  • books or cosy corner
It looks like I have most of the resources for setting this up.....apart from a large house! Having "stations" set up around Pip's play areas would be one way to do this. We already have a construction area in her bedroom (a box of blocks) and she has two book areas, on each floor. There is always the kitchen sink for water play. I just need to find away to make it more inviting and flowing, so that when she's finished playing at one station she can move onto the next. It also needs to be practical - grow ups live here too.

Having 7 stations set up (from the list) at once is going to make the area look too crowded so I've decided to rotate the stations so we have 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The books and puzzles will remain available all the time. The day's routine will also include walks, visits to local playgroups, swimming and also chores (depending on her mood!). For Pip there will need to be a strong focus on motor and sensory activities, she's not one for sitting down quietly playing with small plastic dinosaurs, not matter how exciting the small world is. For me it will have to be easy to set up, tidy, store and should not always need my constant supervision.

No More than Two Hours of Screen Time

We all know that TV is bad for children. Now the scientists are telling us to limit screen time to two hours per day. I'd say Pip is on that limit at the moment. We frequently cross it when she's ill or I'm ill or just need a break. It's become a crutch, a fall back activity. It's so easy to turn on the TV so I can get prepare dinner.

I really need to break the habit. I think going cold turkey will be to much of a shock for both of us and I need to prepare alternatives to Waybuloo, the Night Garden and the 2010 European Diving Championships (Pip's all time favourite).

I've decided to blog about my unplugged adventures. You never know they might be useful to someone out there and it will serve as a useful log of our progress. There are so many "perfect" parenting blogs out there already, I thought I'd like to show you both my successes and resounding failures in my attempts to tempt my toddler away from the TV.

Wish me luck.