#MySundaySnapshot is an internet link-up from Rachel Swirl. On a Sunday, you post a snapshot that says something about your week – with as few words as possible.
I’m going to say a few words with this one. Goodbye to an amazing lady – playful, intelligent, strong, funny, caring and soooo generous with your time and your talents.
Find ways to build your sense of value and self-esteem
Happy Hump Day
A few feel-good thoughts to help us through to the end of the working week (if we need it)
Wednesday has been known as “hump day” since the 1950s, and more commonly since the 1980s. It references the idea that people working the 9-5 might find Wednesday, the middle of the week, as a bit of a hump to get through, and then it’s downhill all the way to the weekend! Of course, in an ideal world we’d all be doing jobs that inspire us and fill us with joy so we’d be getting out of bed each morning glad to get on with the tasks ahead of us at our paid employment!
However, until we reach that point, many of us work through the work and play on the weekends, so that Wednesday hump, however tongue-in-cheek, is something that we recognise.
So let’s make our hump-day happy. Watch out for Happy Hump-Day happiness here on The Playful Way. This might be an inspiring or funny image, a set of jokes, or a funny anecdote or story. Something to bring some playfulness to hump day.
Welcome to 2023! We’ve made it through another year of chaos and madness and are ready to hit the “refresh” button.
This means I am making some changes to the blog. For the last 13 years I’ve had my personal blog on a blogger site inkspotsandgrassstains. For a couple of reasons, I’ve decided to close down my blogger blog, and to make this blog here at The Playful Way more personal. One is that the Blogger platform, which I joined so long ago, has not really kept pace with the technology. The other is that I’m a busy person, and I can’t keep two blogs on the go, so I’ve been doing neither!
I’ll come clean right now. I’m unlikely to have a blogging schedule. I’m unlikely to follow all the rules of SEO and I don’t have any plans at this stage to start stuffing my blog posts with affiliate links or other “monetization” strategies, though I may point you in the direction of my own money-making endeavours every now and then when I create them.
At some point in the coming days I’ll try to turn all my previous inkspotsandgrassstains content into PDF form and host it all on here (because some of it was pretty good!).
So, welcome, come along for the ride, and join me in 2023 as I continue my journey to a more playful, happy and fulfilled life, and try to help everybody else come on the same journey.
So what do we have planned for 2023?
I’m trying not to give myself a whole lot of resolutions or plans for 2023 which I then don’t do and feel bad about it. So I’m focusing on a few projects at a time. Here are my first four.
Project number 1! I’m turning our bare patch of garden (it was just a lawn and a large greenhouse before) into a productive and beautiful space. I’m aiming to break the back of the landscaping in January so I can plant fruit trees and build a willow sculpture before the Spring comes along. Then I can spend the Spring getting more plants in and sowing seeds, and the Summer adding all those beautiful and playful little touches, and actually enjoying the garden.
Project INDEPENDENT INCOME
Much as I love teaching, I don’t plan on being a classroom teacher this time next year. I’m currently working as a Supply teacher, which gives a lot of flexibility, but I’m building a bank of teaching resources for sale, writing my first e-book and marketing my parties and school workshops as well as continuing with art and crafts. The plan is that I can build multiple small income streams. I have also applied for a job for a charity, working with and supporting children – I have an interview for that on Thursday!
Project MAKE FRIENDS
Having relocated in Summer 2022, as a family we are settling into our new lives in beautiful Cornwall. However, I’m a friendly, sociable kind of person, and without the “school gate mates” that you get taking the children to a primary school and pitching in with the PTFA; without the work friends that you get if you are in a regular job; I haven’t yet “found my tribe”. I firmly believe that humans are made to be sociable, and that our current screen-oriented, nuclear-family society doesn’t encourage the building of meaningful, supportive, friend relationships. My intention this year is to make connections with people. I’ve already identified groups and places to target: St Austell Bluetits (outdoor swimmers – the Facebook Group reveals a lot of fun and playfulness); St Austell Canoe Club – we’re already members and there are some great people here; local art and crafters; St Austell Friends (this is a Facebook Group with a lot of members, based on their lovely posts, there are a few people I’d love to reach out to); my neighbours.
My intention is to start going along to groups and meet-ups, and reaching out to people to suggest getting together for a coffee etc.
Project ACTIVE ADVENTURE
We have also stopped our volunteering with The Scouts, which, while incredibly rewarding in many ways, had become more of a burden than a joy. Without this time sink, we have found more time for adventures. However, I’ve also found my fitness somewhat lacking. This year I plan to log our adventures of all types, to intentionally adventure – on the coast path, on the moors, on our holidays, up hills, kayaking, cycling, walking, swimming, snorkelling, fire and den building. A year of adventures!
Are you looking for things to do in lockdown? We’re now a year into the Covid crisis and our ideas bucket might be getting a little empty. Every day feels like the Groundhog and you can’t wait for schools to go back? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This Spring feels very strange for those of us at home with children. We’ve had them at home with us the whole time since they broke up for Christmas! However, it’s important that we make weekends and “not at school” times feel different for our children. We’re not just talking about keeping the kids occupied, it’s much more important than that. The monotony of a year where opportunities for holidays, going out to the shops, seeing friends and family, meals out, parties and activities like soft-play, swimming pools or school discos have been severely limited means that every day begins to feel like the groundhog day.
Humans (and monkeys too, research from Rome has confirmed) like variety. You’ve heard the old adage “A change is as good as a rest”, the times when we are not doing school-dictated activity are a great opportunity to inject some variety for yourself as well as your children.
In the past I’ve talked often about the importance of allowing children to develop boredom, not to over-organise or over-structure their day-to-day lives, to allow their imaginations to flourish and increase the opportunities for free play. I’m going to suggest that at this point, our children have had plenty of opportunity for free-play and imagination this past twelve months. They’ve sadly had to occupy themselves apart from their peers, which makes free play and imagination so much harder. Right now, they probably need a bit of direction and support.
If you’re also trying to work from home, or are having to go out to work and juggle childcare (difficult to access at the moment) this can be particularly hard. However, I’d suggest that both you and your child need that emotional connection more than ever that you get from doing things together.
The ideas below for fun things to do in lockdown range from quick ideas you can use to inspire your children to go and do alone, to more complex activities that you will need to do together. There are indoor and outdoor activities and ideas targeting younger children as well as older. There is bound to be something to suit you.
Indoor things to do in lockdown
Are those big boxes of Lego or other building blocks gathering dust in the corner? Sometimes all the children need is a bit of inspiration. Whether you search for “Fun things to make with Lego” (producing results like this) or you set a “build the longest bridge” type challenge. To really get them engaged, even older kids will value having you sit and build with them as they get started. Once their imagination is in full flow, you can nip off to make a cup-of-tea and they won’t even notice you’ve gone. Unless of course, you’re having so much fun that you want to stay and play!
Hide and seek or sardines
Easy to play and a lot of fun, though better with more players so best for a large family. We all know how to play Hide and Seek. In Sardines, one person hides, then as each player finds them, they have to squeeze into the same hiding place.
A great (if messy) craft for all ages. A quick internet search will reveal tons of inspiring ideas and you can always make something that fits into whatever your child is interested in, from dinosaur eggs to frog pots, from spooky castles to fairy palaces. This easy and cheap craft requires patience as you wait for layers to dry before adding the next bit, but the results can be spectacular.
Salt dough crafts
Another craft that requires virtually nothing in the way of material (just flour, salt and water, and some paints to finish off). You can create decorations, wall plaques or even doll-house food!
Raid the recycle bin to create some amazing creations: from monster robots to castles, egg box crocodiles to space rockets and milk carton cities.
This is definitely a win-win activity. Not only do you keep a little person very busy, teach them measuring skills, food hygiene and the importance of cleaning up after themselves, but you also get a tasty treat to eat at the end of all the fun!
If your child loves to read, then they will always be looking for something to mark their place in their book. A bookmark making activity is both practical and fun. Whether you go down the origami route, drawing and laminating, or sewing using binca or felt, there will be a bookmark activity to suit you and your kids.
We can’t go to the cinema at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the experience. Choose a great movie you all want to watch, dim the lights, put up the volume and snuggle down with a bowl of popcorn each.
The Scouts have been inspiring children and guiding them through learning skills for life in hands-on activities for over a Century. Where better to turn for some great ideas for our children during lock-down. Scouts – The Great Indoors is a great collection of activities curated by The Scouts during the first lockdown. Even better – you might consider joining your local Scout Group (for boys and girls 6-18), many have been offering online Scouting throughout the pandemic as well as outdoor activities whenever restrictions allow.
“Let’s go Live” and other Science experiments
There are lots of Science experiments and activities to do at home floating around the internet. Some require a bit of preparation and equipment, others are a bit easier to manage. An example is here on Good Housekeeping, or here on ScienceFun.org. To get really inspired though, I would highly recommend “Let’s Go Live“, with Maddie and Greg on YouTube. They present a fun video introducing a scenario, the Science and a lot of fun each week.
Board Games and Card Games
Yes, it’s time to get the Board Games and Card games out. You’ll often need to do these with your children to begin with, while you teach them how to play and how to both win and lose gracefully!
You don’t have to go out and buy a whole load of fancy-dress costumes. A selection of hats, bags, scarves, and access to mum or dad’s wardrobe will provide a wealth of fun! A challenge to “see who can wear the strangest costume” is a great way to get things started.
Making things in miniature
There are many great things about making things in miniature, but I’ll be honest, some of my favourites are that they don’t use up much material and the projects don’t take up a lot of space! An internet search for “mini crafts for kids” reveals some lovely ideas from mini books to tiny polymer clay animals. Model railway scenery or dollhouse or fairy garden accessories also fall firmly into this category.
I’m a big fan of playdough. Not only is it fun, encourages creativity and imagination along with literacy skills as the child tells you what they are making, but it also builds up those motor skills and hand-eye coordination which are so important as children begin to write. Here’s my recipe for home-made playdough: Mix 1 cup of plain flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 2tbsp veg oil, 2tbsp cream of tartare and food colouring in a saucepan over a medium heat. Keep stirring as it turns from liquid to a dryish doughy mix. This mix will keep well if covered.
This is an excellent STEM challenge for older challenge. There are a host of paper aeroplane instructions out there for lots of different aeroplane shapes. Challenge your child or children to experiment with plane types, paper weight and size to find the best paper aeroplane in the following categories – paper plane that flies furthest, flies fastest, and is most acrobatic.
Technically this could be an indoor or an outdoor activity, but I’ve put it here because people often overlook the potential for water play indoors. Kitchen’s can usually be mopped, or the bath is a great place to contain water. Whether this is a toddler just having a good splash and pouring water from one container to another, or an older child creating miniature boats, or finding a way to move water uphill, there’s something for everybody here.
Recycle box aquarium
This is one of the simplest ideas, and yet will not only occupy a rainy afternoon, but also creates something that can look great! Cut one side out of a cereal box. Paint the outside. Decorate the inside to look like an aquarium, then hang your fish from the top so they “swim”. Fantastic!
Children LOVE painting and there are lots of reasons why it’s a valuable activity for them to do. You can read a summary here at the Innovation Kids Lab. When my children were small I tended to get them to paint at an easel outdoors where possible, or in the kitchen with no clothes on! As they got older, we had two types of paint – poster paints required table covering, aprons, and cleaning up together. I also bought one of those tins of water colour tablets each for them (cheap and easy to get hold of). These are a lot less messy and meant that the children could paint whenever they wanted to. Now, aged 10 and 11, they have access to a whole range of paints and are confident to both use them, and clean up after themselves!
Microwave mug cakes and armpit fudge
We’ve already talked about baking, but these are super-easy, super-quick, minimal equipment baking wonders. Here are 34 different mug-cake recipes from Country Living Magazine. Armpit fudge is one that sounds disgusting, but the kids will adore squishing all the ingredients together in a zip-lock bag under their arm and then digging in for a sweet-treat. Full instructions here at www.mum-friendly.co.uk.
I know, right? This is a radical idea. My eleven year-old still seems surprised when I expect him to help out around the house, despite the fact that we’ve been doing it since he was a toddler. However, the importance of teaching children life skills, and the self-esteem they get from being useful can’t be overestimated. In addition, doing housework together is more fun!
Dance contest or Zumba
Some kids just love to move and there’s no reason why this can’t happen in lockdown. Dance mats and the software to run them are available for most games consoles, but you could also play videos of dance routines or Zumba to join in with, some are designed specifically to be child-friendly, or just put the music on loud and jump and dance around the room together like crazy.
Outdoor things to do in lockdown
Getting outdoors is more important than ever. When you are cooped up in the same four walls day after day, little niggles soon become big irritations. Getting some fresh air and exercise will make everybody feel better. However, current guidance restricting travel for exercise, even a trip to the Gruffalo Trail at the local nature reserve is advised against. Try some of these activities instead:
A way to make a walk more fun and increase observation skills. Take a list of things to spot on your daily walk around the block. This might include: somebody walking a dog, somebody with a push-chair, a red front door, a car from another country, somebody on a bike, snowdrops or crocuses. Tick them off together as you find them.
The current rules state that playparks remain open primarily for those children who do not have their own garden. You can take your child to a playpark for exercise, but you should not socialise with other people while there.
A bug hunt in the garden is a great way to get the children closer to nature in your own back garden and requires no equipment. At this time of year, the bugs are hiding away, so it’s quite challenging.
Get a pack of chalks and draw on the walls or paving slabs outside (it will all wash away in the rain). Younger children will just enjoy making marks with a different medium, while older children can really exercise their artistic talents – there are some lovely ideas here and here.
Build a nest
This activity really gets children thinking about how amazing birds are. Make a bird nest using only natural materials. Here are the instructions.
Feed the birds
This is the time of year when birds are most in need of a helping hand. The insects are still hidden away for the winter, seeds are becoming scarce and mating and nesting is underway using up a lot of birdie energy. Whether filling up bought bird feeders or making your own feeders from pipe-cleaners and Cheerios, from empty plastic bottlesor from toilet roll tubes.
Create frozen suncatchers
Frozen suncatchers will get your little ones thinking about the weather, and also about the natural materials around them. Find the instructions here.
With a free version of the Geocaching app, this is basically a free global treasure hunt! Just create an account and you could soon be spicing up your walks by searching for and finding caches hidden on your route.
Knife crime is reaching horrific rates, with more than 35,000 knife offences recorded between March 2019 and March 2020. Rather than trying to keep our young people away from knives, we need to 1) give them confidence to tackle conflict in peaceful ways and 2) teach them that knives are useful tools to be handled safely, rather than weapons. Some great advice on types of knife, safety and inks to appropriate videos and books, can be found on the fabulous Get Out With the Kids.
As a Scout Leader, I love teaching children to light fires. First, you teach the theory and the safety – how to do the activity safely, when to light fires and when not to, adult supervision, where to light fires, extinguishing fires safely etc. For beginners, lighting a match and lighting a candle is challenge enough. Then progress on to learning about different types of kindling and fuel, and how to construct and build a fire. Just collecting wood is an activity in itself! As they get more experienced, you can look at lighting fires without using a match, trying out flint and steel, rubbing two sticks and the like.
A bike ride is a brilliant way to keep fit and explore the area where you live. Work out a safe cycle route, with as few roads as possible (or very quiet ones) and get out exploring on two wheels.
Place Kindness Rocks
Painting rocks is a lovely creative activity. You can either paint images, turn your rock into a whimsical creature, or decorate your rock with a kind and inspiring quote. On your next walk, place these inspiring rocks for others to find on their walks, and spread a little love and happiness.
There are so many reasons to garden with children that I could write a whole blog post about it (and I might!). From engaging senses, linking with nature, learning where food comes from, motor skills, vocabulary and more, spending time engaged in active work outdoors is really fulfilling and doing it together gives time to chat and spend time together.
Going for a walk, even somewhere familiar, suddenly becomes more interesting and exciting if you go out in the dark. The use of a torch is fun by itself, but try switching the torches off and see how your eyesight adjusts to the lower light levels and how your brain compensates by intensifying your other senses of smell and hearing. You might even be lucky enough to spot more interesting wildlife such as bats, owls, foxes, hedgehogs or badgers that you wouldn’t see in daylight.
Create a “percussion wall”
Hang various old pans, wooden spoons and pipes and tubes from a wall, fence or tree in your garden to make a space where noise-making is encouraged and celebrated.
Before sunset gets too late for the little ones, take the opportunity to spend some time looking at the stars. On a cloudless night, find the darkest place you can, away from street lights if possible – just a few miles out into the country makes all the difference, if restrictions allow. Take a deckchair or blanket so you can lie down, and snuggle down into a sleeping bag or more blankets and check out the stars. There are plenty of apps out there such as Star Chart or StarGazing that can tell you what you are looking at. If you have a telescope or binoculars, you can examine the moon and stars more closely. Keep warm with a hot chocolate.
How often do your children get involved with photography aside from daft selfies? Encourage them to broaden their photography horizons with a winter picture challenge. Any camera will do. Whether its getting up close to a dew-spangled spider-web, or taking photos of a hare in a snowy field, winter holds some fascinating scenes for those who take the trouble to frame a shot.
Outdoor noughts and crosses
So quick and easy to create, this can provide a quick activity for children to do together or with you at any time. Paint pebbles in two different ways (I love this bumble bee and ladybird idea from Red Ted Art). A 3 x 3 grid painted on a paving slab or log slice creates the playing zone.
Winter BBQ or cooking on an open fire
Following on from the firelighting activity earlier comes the liberating activity of cooking on fire. Reaching back through the mists of time to prepare food just the way your ancestors did (or just toasting marshmallows on sticks!), is a fun and creative activity and creates a whole new taste adventure. Look up “Backwoods cooking recipes” or “cooking on open fire” for some great suggestions.
Stick sword fight
So often in our risk-averse world we tell children to “put that stick down” or “watch out” and “be careful!”. Wouldn’t it be great to take the brakes off and allow them to stick fight – or better yet, join in with them too!
Local area exploration
Are your children often ferried in the car from activity to activity? This is particularly true for families in rural areas and you may have found that your “daily exercise” in lockdown has been the first time you’ve roamed your neighbourhood footpaths and byways. It’s always fun to take time to “see where this goes” or follow a coin-toss adventure (at every junction toss a coin – heads = right, tails = left) to see where you end up.
I hope that you’ve found some great ideas for things to do in lockdown with your children at this time of year, despite the weather and the covid restrictions. I’ll be writing in more detail about some of these activities in future posts, so do keep coming back for more. I’d also love you to comment your own ideas of activities you’ve been doing with the children this Spring.
I think it would be very difficult for anybody to dispute that John Cleese is both playful and creative. Co-founder of Monty Python, scriptwriter on The Frost Report, co-writer of Fawlty Towers and writer of “A fish called Wanda” and “Fierce Creatures”.
If anybody is well-placed to write a book about creativity it’s John Cleese.
Now, I’m obviously not going to give away all the guidance John gives in this, as it says on the cover, “short and cheerful guide”, because its a new book, and if I tell you all the answers then you won’t go and buy it!
Suffice it to say, that he’s got some excellent advice and I recommend buying Creativity, by John Cleese. It’s also well worth following his irreverence on Twitter.
Playing games is a good thing. It brings people closer together, opens up observation and creativity and is a brilliant vehicle for our brains to engage with something (in short, you learn stuff without even realising!)
We’re not just talking about playing board games here. We’re talking about any kind of game. Games don’t have to involve dice and plastic counters, be packaged and sold. In fact, often it’s the simplest games that are easiest to slot into a busy day: Letter and word games while you’re waiting for a bus, observation games, tracking games and so on.
My daughter and I have recently started playing a new easy game to improve our observation skills.
It’s really a meld of the amazing effects of Sherlock Holmes and thinking about some of the intentions of Baden-Powell when he started the Scouts – he placed great stock in the skills of observation and suggests some great activities and games in “Scouting for Boys”.
How this easy game works
While out for a walk (or in the car, though it’s much harder when you’re supposed to be concentrating on the road), we set ourselves a target. “Two questions by the junction with the tree.”
As we walk that stretch of road, we observe very hard. We need to come up with two questions to ask our partner, but they will also be asking us two questions!
At the end of the stretch, we ask our questions:
What were the numbers on the green exchange box?
What colour was the front door of number 14?
The man with the little girl was carrying a bag, what did it have written on it?
What was hanging in the window of the house with the Mercedes on the drive?
It’s a lot of fun and gets us taking more notice of our surroundings.
You may ask how, at this time, we can talk about playfulness.
I would argue that now is when we need playfulness more than ever.
Play in a time of trial
2020 has been a hard year and here in the UK it looks as though the beginning of 2021, with covid19 still rife, things are not going back to normal very quickly.
A glance at social media is enough to show just how much fear there is out there. People are worried for their livelihoods, worried for their health and their loved ones. Everybody is fed up of staying in and missing normal social interaction. There are grandparents who’ve never yet held grandchildren, and families who are worried they may not get to hug an elderly relative before it’s too late.
You may ask how, at this time, we can talk about playfulness.
I would argue that now is when we need playfulness more than ever.
How to be more playful in 2021
Playfulness is about finding the joy in the everyday. It’s about allowing creativity to flourish and its about making life more fun for everybody around you.
If it makes you smile – go for it!
If something makes you smile, embrace it. That pink metal flamingo that makes you smile every time you see it on the market stall? Buy it, put it in your garden. It will make you smile every time you look out the window. If you love that purple top or those rainbow knickers – wear them! As the Wiccans say “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Provided what makes you smile doesn’t cause any harm or problem to anybody – go for it! If you love chocolate, even if your other New Year resolution is to be healthy – buy a really high quality chocolate and have a little nibble. The happiness you get from it will more than compensate a few extra calories. Where possible – follow your whims!
Make contact with people
You can absolutely be playful on your own, but humans are social animals. Make plans that involve being playful with others, even if that involves video calls rather than face-to-face interaction. Set up an online Escape Room or online game or quiz that you can do together. Create a funny family video to send to family. Make plans for the family holiday, get-together or party that you will enjoy when Covid releases its grip on the world.
Working looks very different for different people – housework, studying, voluntary work, factory work, outdoor work, office work, management, shop work – you name it, we do it. Let’s make our working lives more playful and enjoyable. Whether that’s by singing (think of sea shanties), by incorporating something light-hearted (we all know somebody who likes to wear a different silly hat to each Zoom meeting), by gamifying our work (rewards and “levels”) or by encouraging more creativity in the workplace. We can make our working lives both more productive and more pleasurable by injecting a little playfulness.
Creativity is the key to playfulness and I don’t just mean crafting, writing poetry or painting. Creativity is the use of the imagination and fresh ideas. It can be applied to the dog walk or your daily jog – find a new route, listen to new music, allow yourself a little role-play (you’re a detective looking for clues!). If you’re writing something – rather than just doing it on the computer – can you print it out and draw your own border? We are all very quick to look for things on the internet, to download clipart – we seem to have forgotten the simple pleasure of drawing things ourselves! With cheap fashion, we forget the creative joy that comes with up-cycling or making it ourselves. Let’s make 2021 a more creative year! (On my other blog “Ink Spots and Grass Stains“, I’m going to be charting my creative efforts for 2021.)
Most of us didn’t get many opportunities for adventures in 2020. There was a lot of staying at home to do. Adventure is naturally playful. It takes you out of the ordinary and unlocks your spirit of fun and creativity, problem solving and ingenuity. Adventures don’t have to be high-adrenaline activities (though they can be, and we can’t wait to go coasteering this year!), but can just be doing something different. In our family we revel in the “mini-adventure”. These usually involve Rosie the campervan, but aren’t necessarily camping trips. They usually involve going somewhere new. They may involve a walk or a bike-ride, they may involve a theme park or zoo, they may involve a picnic or a cafe. A mini-adventure could be a train trip to a nearby town, or a ride on a bus to “see where it goes”. Embrace the mini-adventure!
Games don’t have to involve plastic counters and dice. Playing games makes you feel good, it involves interacting with other people, it unlocks feel-good hormones and can improve brain power. Whether it’s a weekly game of scrabble, a word-game while you wait in line or an observation game with your children – try to get more games into your life. We’ll be adding lots of different games you can play on this site as the year goes by, so watch out for those.
Be more playful
So what will you be doing this year to be more playful?
If you’re reading this blog, this suggests that you believe in the power of play to make the world a better place, to develop children and adults into happier and more productive people.
This isn’t a new concept and some eminent authors, psychologists, philosophers and educators have written books about the importance of play. They are a great place to get ideas on how to incorporate more play in your teaching, in your parenting or in your life in general, as well as to find evidence to convince any sceptics out there.
In the interests of transparency, please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, with no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I will only recommend products that I believe are worth buying, not because of the links – they are just a helpful way for me to earn a little extra cash.
“Playful Teaching and Learning” 2017 – by Glenda Walsh, Dorothy McMillan and Carol McGuinness
This textbook for early years practitioners explores how important play is throughout the early years setting, focusing on ages 3-8. Playfulness can and should be applied to all aspects of the early-years curriculum to captivate and maintain the interest of young children in their setting.
Available in paperback and in Kindle
“Playful Parenting” – by Lawrence J Cohen
Lawrence Cohen is a celebrated psychologist and he describes this book as “An exciting new approach to raising children that will help you: nurture close connections, solve behavior problems and encourage confidence.” He points out that by playing with our children we join them in their world.
Available in Paperback and Kindle edition
The Idle Parent – by Tom Hodgkinson
I adore this book, and I think it’s probably what got me started on the realm of the Playful Manifesto.
Tom’s key suggestion is that children do a lot better when they aren’t being constantly coddled and carted from place to place. When they have freedom to just… play, which frees up you, the parent to stop nagging them and join in with the play.
Available in paperback and on Kindle
“Playful Parenting – Fun Games and Activities for Families” – by Judy H Wright
This fabulous book from parent educator, Judy Helm Wright (Auntie Artichoke), has lots of practical ideas to bring a more playful approach to your family.
Available on Kindle
“Homo Ludens” by Johan Huizinga
In this famous study of play across many cultures, Johan Huizinga defines play as a central feature of all flourishing societies. He talks about play in terms of law, language, poetry and myth and describes (starting with Plato) how play has defined the contribution of Man.
Available as paperbackand Kindle
Exuberance: The Passion for Life – by Kay Redfield Jamison
A Clinical Psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison makes the link between child’s play and scientific breakthrough and talks about how this playfulness, which she describes as “exuberance” is critical in developing learning, social cohesiveness and survival.
Available on Kindle:
“Hop, Skip, Jump: 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life” by Marney K. Makridakis
Marney Makridakis explains how work and play can be blended to bring you happy success. She suggests three phases: dreaming (hop), experimenting (skip) and taking action (jump) and describes how we can discover our “play personality” to make work feel more like play.
Available in Paperback or Kindle Edition
“Wonderland – how play made the modern world” Steven Johnson
In this book, Steven Johnson explains how playful creativity is the mother of invention and led to the development of a host of products and devices that we just couldn’t do without. From flutes made of bone to computers and the internet. Never dull, he gives practical reasons to back up the concept that we need play to develop new ideas.
Recently I wrote about different types of play. When I got to Computer Play I realised that I had opened a complete can of worms!
This is a very controversial area.
As far as I can see, its all about balance. There are some potential problems to watch out for:
computer games can be very addictive. It’s difficult to get off that screen once you’re on it.
Some computer games revel in violence.
despite the chat functions, gaming is often a solo pursuit.
While you may think your child is safe in their room, computer game chat rooms are the perfect haunt for unsavoury characters looking for vulnerable children.
Lots of other children are playing, yours may feel they are missing out.
Here are some guidelines:
Everything in moderation. We want our children to be able to make healthy choices in their lives, so it’s important that they get a good balance of outdoor, physical, creative and exploratory and social play as well as screen time. There is no recommended limit on screen time in the UK, but the American Society of Paediatrics recommends no screen time at all up to 18 months, and then a maximum of 1 hour per day up to the age of 5. Tell them the time limit before they start playing, and then give them 5 minutes warning before the time is up.
Use the age ratings on games to ensure that the game is suitable for your child. It’s tricky if their friend is playing a game that you don’t approve of, but talking to your child about why you don’t think it’s okay will help them understand.
Play with your children when you can. The computer game is a perfect babysitter, your child is sitting still and you can get on with something else. However, they may get more out of it (and also take your time limits and guidance with more credence) if you occasionally play with them. They get to teach you how to do things, they can show you and tell you what they enjoy about the game and you build a relationship.
Talk to them about e-safety, the importance of not giving away any personal information in a chat-room, coming and telling you if they are worried about anything etc. There are some great resources on ThinkuKnow to support this learning.
You should always know when your child is online or playing a computer game, and you should always be able to look over their shoulder and see what they are playing and what they are doing. Hiding their computer game playing is a warning flag and you should talk to them. It either means that they are playing when you haven’t agreed it (going over the agreed time limits), they are playing something that you wouldn’t approve of, or they are chatting in a way you wouldn’t be happy with.
If you look up different types of play, you will almost certainly find the six stages of play development in pre-schoolers suggested by the research of Mildred Parten in 1932. Parten suggested that children move through stages of: unoccupied play, solitary independent play and onlooker play, to parallel play, associative play and then cooperative play. You can find out more about this here on Purewow.
For older children though, it’s worth bearing in mind that being playful comes in lots of different guises. Some children may develop a preference for one type of play over another, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for a well-rounded child, it’s a good idea to encourage participation in a good balance of different types of play.
Below, I’ve summarised some of the different forms of play you will come across.
Playing on the swings, running races, monkey bars, tag, gymnastics in the sitting room, wrestling, spinning, skipping, football and badminton. Your child may engage in physical play independently or with others. When they engage in this play they aren’t doing it to “get fit” or “be active”, they are doing it because they enjoy it. Sometimes they may initiate an element of competition, but that isn’t the most important thing in the play.
Any play where the child is able to use their imagination to make something or to create a world in their head can be termed creative play. This includes the worlds they can create with building blocks, Lego, dolls houses and playmobil as well as drawing, painting, playdough, crafts and story-writing. Sometimes they may be following instructions or building a kit, at other times they may be creating more freely from their own imagination.
Role play is a really important way for your child to make sense of the world around them. From “feeding baby” with a doll, to a complex game of “cops and robbers” or “mums and dads” as they start school. Role play can be inspired by a story, or by providing a few props. A basket of generic dressing-up items – you don’t have to buy ready-made costumes, which are limited to one character – a beard, a few hats, a toy stethoscope and a hand-bag from the charity shop, can be put to a very wider range of uses. In their free time on the playground children still happily engage in role-play games right through Primary school, and after that, this is often developed through drama, plays or role-play games like Dungeons and Dragons.
Exploratory play is where a child chooses to use their senses to explore the world around them. This may be just sitting and scrunching leaves, or it may be peering through a telescope at the moon. Making mud-pies, grabbing your own toes, squelching slime, pouring water from one container to another, playing with the door stop, cooking, and building sand-castles. All involve exploring different materials.
As they develop more facility with language, children add word play to their repertoire. To begin with they will enjoy playing with rhyming or alliterative sounds, coming up with rhyming words, learning nursery rhymes and short poems etc. Later they may enjoy finding out new words, creating acrostic poetry or acronyms, doing word-searches and finding and sharing puns or jokes which play on words.
Technically this isn’t a type of play. It’s just one of the ways play happens. This is a natural progression. By the time they reach Primary School, most children are happy to play cooperatively with other children as well as playing on their own. The social skills involved in negotiating a shared game, establishing rules, sharing props, solving conflicts and communicating, or of being gracious both in defeat and victory are all part of the learning curve on the way to adulthood and this type of play is vital in developing them.
There’s a lot of controversy about computer games and screen time for children.
There are a wide variety of computer games for children. Some encourage coding, building and creating online (LegoWorld, Minecraft and Roblox), others involve a fantasy world where you collect things and solve problems, and others just involve a bit of in-computer role play – the hair salon or the vets.
We live in an age of technology and games have been designed that are fun, beautiful and inspiring (as well as some rubbish, just like anything else!).
We should approach computer play like any other type of play, and ensure that our children are playing on the right game, with the right people, and getting a healthy balance. I’ll be writing more about this at a later date.
Sadly, many adults have negative ideas about numbers and maths. Be open to the idea of playing with numbers. Children love to be able to count – counting steps, counting food, counting money; measure – for cooking etc. and to find and repeat patterns. All these are great for developing maths skills but are also intrinsically fun – watch the delight a child can have playing with and sorting a big tub of buttons! This kind of play includes board games – matching numbers to symbols on the dice and moving the corresponding number of spaces; dominoes; darts; counting games; there are some great times tables games on the computer; card games etc.
There’s always that irritating uncle whose idea of a joke is to get your child the noisiest toy in the shop. The joke’s on them because while you hope that your child won’t strike up the band at six in the morning, playing that recorder or that tambourine is helping them develop their rhythm. Opt for child versions of percussion toys or small “real” instruments rather than electronic noise toys. Make a band together and play along gleefully (if tunelessly) to your favourite songs on the radio while parading around the kitchen.
Bringing it all together
You can probably visualise your child engaging in some of these different types of play and you will probably have a good idea of their preferences. The thing to remember is that each of these different types of play is important for child development. Make space for a good balance of lots of different types of play in your child’s life or in your child-care setting. Encourage children to try different types of play (the best way to do this is always to start playing yourself – they will soon want to come and join you!).
A good mix of types of play will lead to a good mix of fun!