playing

Less is More! Tips on Toy Rotations

WRITTEN BY ZARA DEMERIS, PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER AND MUMMA BEHIND @zaras_play_tribe

Melbourne, Australia

A picture of our playroom. @ zaras_ play_ tribe

A picture of our playroom. @zaras_play_tribe

What is a toy rotation?

Toy rotation is exactly that, it is rotating toys. Moving toys out of children’s sight for a period of time then bringing them back. It sounds simple and it is. Move unused toys out of your little ones space and put it somewhere that they will not see it, for at least a few weeks – if not longer!

 

How do I do it? 

1.     Gather all the toys from your child’s play space.

2.     Make group piles. You can sort them into groups such as games, arts and crafts, building, cars, books, imaginative play, stuffed animals etc.

3.     Now choose a couple of things from each category and put it on display. The rest – goes away! If you are worried because it doesn’t look like much, give this article a read. Less is more!

4.     When putting the ‘rest’ away put it somewhere out of sight. You don’t want your little ones to be able to see it or have access to it.

5.     Decide on a rotation schedule. How often will you rotate the toys? I usually rotate every 10 – 14 days. You might like to do it weekly, fortnightly, monthly or just when your little one gets bored!

6.     When you come to the end of a rotation cycle, simple rinse and repeat! Of course you can keep out the favourite toys but put the ones that have been ignored away and bring back something else.

That’s it!

You do not need fancy toys. You do not need the latest and greatest. You just need to be mindful about which toys and how many you are giving them access to.

  

Why should I rotate toys?

I have found, when we started rotating toys Aidan and Evie are now less likely to become over-whelmed and over-stimulated. Even better than that, their attention span is longer and the depth of their play has increased (read a blog post from a parent’s experience with minimizing toys here). They don’t have access to many toys so they play with the toys they have to their greatest capacity.

Each rotation is like a new set of toys, most of the time there is nothing new in a rotation but for them it feels new and so exciting!

Quick and Easy Pretend Play Area Your Children Will Love

WRITTEN BY I-YATAH KEISHA, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR AND OWNER OF KIDTABULOUS

Montreal, Canada

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Pretend play (imaginative play/ dramatic play) is a great way for children to develop a wide range of skills while using their imagination and having fun.

Children can make sense of the world around them by acting out scenarios and situations in real life. Dramatic play gives children opportunities to practice taking turns, sharing and problem solving.  They can express and communicate a range of emotions while engaged in dramatic play. They also are developing their vocabulary and language skills as they play.

Veterinarian’s Office Pretend play

An example of a really fun, pretend play area that you can easily put together and your children will love is a veterinarian’s office.

You can add things like stuffed animals, sheets and towels, doctor tools, lab coats, bandages, band aids, pillows, chairs, cardboard box cages, books about animals and veterinarians, etc. You can even have the children help you find everything you need around the house. Setting up the dramatic play area is half the fun!

Once the veterinarian pretend play area is all set up, it’s time to play!

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Tips for Pretend Play

When you are ready to set up the pretend play area, here are some helpful tips:

-You can include almost anything in your dramatic play area. Some good items to start with are clothes, costumes, hats, shoes, scarves, boxes, baskets, dolls, stuffed toys, blankets, paper, writing and drawing materials, cash register, old toys, dishes, masks, jewellery, books, etc.

-Keep it open-ended. The goal is to encourage the children to use their imagination with the materials provided.

-The dramatic play area can be set up anywhere, from under a table, in a tent, on the couches, playroom, or even in a corner of the bedroom or basement.

-The pretend play area should be changed regularly with different props and toys to keep children interested and encourage new ideas and ways to play.

Pretend Play and Cognitive Development

High-quality pretend play is also thought to help promote some aspects of a child’s development, including theory of mind which is important for social interactions and to help children analyze and interpret other people’s behaviour (for a review article on pretend play click here).

Professional child care that comes to your event!

If you live in the Montreal area, make sure you visit the website KIDTABULOUS. Whether you have a wedding, holiday party, corporate event or private event…any adult event with children means that you can hire childcare animators to come take care of the children AND come with activities. Check out their website for details on packages.

SAFE SENSORY PLAY UNDER 12 MONTHS

WRITTEN BY ZARA DEMERIS, PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER AND MUMMA BEHIND @zaras_play_tribe

Melbourne, Australia

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What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play has a very important role in child development. To put it simply it is any activity that stimulates the senses. This includes the five well known senses, sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch, as well as the two lesser known senses vestibular and proprioception.

  • Sight: The ability to locate, focus and perceive objects and images.

  • Smell: The ability to notice an odor

  • Taste: The ability to detect flavour.

  • Hearing: The ability to perceive sound.

  • Touch: The ability to feel specific stimulus and locate their location on our body.

  • Vestibular: The ability to balance and coordinate our body.

  • Proprioception: The ability to understand where our body parts are and plan our

    movements.

Theories and research behind it.

When Evie (Miss 10 months) came along I was determined to do as much sensory play with her as possible. This was largely because of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) who was a key contributor to the development and understanding of sensory play. He believed that intelligence was a process which occurs due to biological maturations and interaction with the environment. His theory suggests that children move through four stages of development, the one I was interested in was the Sensorimotor stage (birth – 2 years). During this stage of development, Piaget believes that children use their senses to learn more about the world and themselves. So what better way to encourage Aidan & Evie’s learning than through sensory play!

Application of sensory play in a multi-age environment.

With two under two it has been challenging to keep Evie (10 months) out of Aidan’s (2.5 years) sensory tubs. I know how important it is for her to experience it too but it is tricky engaging in meaningful conversations with Aidan whilst playing goalie between objects and Evie’s mouth!

After (another) trip to IKEA we came home with the KLIPSK bed tray. I placed it on the floor with the intention of using it as an art station for Aidan but Evie immediately crawled over and stood up on it. With that small action an idea was born!

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I grabbed a handful of pom poms, secured them in the tray with clear contact and let her at it. It was an immediate success!

While she is still so young I have made it her independent sensory tray which will allow her to explore different textures, colours, sounds and sensations. Of course I will still be there, just not playing goalie between the objects and her mouth - because they can't get to her mouth!

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So far, she has been able to explore and discover so much more about the things I put in the tray as she is not interrupted by me. Evie has been able to explore different colours and listen to the rattling sound that the objects make. Larger objects push against the clear contact making it easier for her to feel their texture. Her vestibular and proprioception skills are also challenged as she stands and balances on the tray, having to coordinate her arms and legs when the tray begins to slip on the floor boards.

Doing science based activities together has also been made easier. When I placed ice in the tray the cold sensation radiated through the contact making her hands very cold. During this session, I spoke to her about temperature and showed her familiar objects that are also cold. The ice cubes didn’t stick to the contact so she had great fun trying to catch them. By simply trapping small objects under clear contact Evie can engage in these sessions safely and uninterrupted. Don’t worry if you don’t have one of these trays, a simple baking dish will work just as well!

Leading educators say that sensory play helps build nerve connections in the brains pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning task – how cool is that! It also supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, social interaction and can enhance memory….no big deal! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it can also help calm a frustrated or anxious child! I would love you to share, or ask me any questions about safe sensory play ideas, head over to my Instagram page @play.learn.laugh.

Game: Smash the Lego tower

The first few months after giving birth to my son were not only challenging for me but for my daughter as well. Our day-long play dates had been taken over by a small baby who needed lots of "mommy time". I had to be creative in order to entertain her while also nursing, changing diapers or getting my baby to fall asleep. Now that my baby is 6 months, I noticed a spike in his interest to play with his older sister and I have been trying to think of activities that I can do with both children.

In fact, my son is now on the move and his mission is to take anything and everything his sister plays with! Until now, reading books, singing, and playing with puppets were the main activities we did together. These activities stimulated both my daughter and my son. However, the other day I got an idea from watching my son smashing his sister's Lego towers. This could become a game! We all had lots of fun playing this game and now my daughter will ask me to play "Smash the Lego tower"!

I hope you enjoy playing this game with your children as well!

 

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Target Age:

A baby that can play on their tummy and a child who can build Lego Duplo towers.

Materials:

Lego Duplo blocks and a Lego Duplo baseplate. (Baseplate can be bought at the Lego store)

Activity Layout:

Have the older child build a few Lego Duplo towers and have them place these towers to the side of a Lego baseplate (the green baseplate in the picture). We built about 10-12 towers. You could even ask them to build some towers of the same colour and others with mixed colours.

Place your baby on their belly (or sitting if they can) beside the baseplate and have your toddler say "1 2 3 GO". At "GO" you and your toddler (or only your toddler if you want to be the referee!) have to place ALL the Lego towers on the baseplate BEFORE your baby knocks down a single tower. You might have to model the sense of "speed" and winning for your toddler if this concept is new to them (email us at info@curiousneuron.com if you need help with this). Encourage your toddler to move quickly and if your baby isn't smashing the tower show them how to do it. The first person to reach 5 points wins. You can model the points using the single legos. You can ask your toddler if they are winning or their sibling is by looking at the "Lego point system". Ask them which one has more points (see picture). 

Point system to help toddler visualize who is winning. 

Point system to help toddler visualize who is winning. 

When we first started playing, I would place my towers closer to my son. As he began to understand the concept, I started placing them further away from him. 

If this becomes too easy for the older child, you can even blindfold them or have them place the Lego towers with their non-dominant hand. 

 

 

 

 

WHICH DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES AND SKILLS DOES THIS ACTIVITY PROMOTE? 

In this activity, we are targeting Social/Emotional and Cognitive milestones for both 6 months of age and 2 years (see images below).

We are also targeting executive functions skills for 2-year-olds. This activity fits in the "Active Games" category for executive functions where a child is required to speed up, slow down or even "freeze" (see image below). 

Developmental Milestones: 6 months

Developmental Milestones: 6 months

Developmental Milestones: 6 months 

Developmental Milestones: 6 months 

Developmental Milestones: 2 years 

Developmental Milestones: 2 years 

Development Milestones: 2 years

Development Milestones: 2 years

Have fun playing with you kids!

Cindy Hovington, PhD

Founder of Curious Neuron