Play can sometimes take a back seat at this age thanks to so much technology and the stimulation and convenience that brings. However, with time set aside and a little encouragement it doesn't have to.
I'm a busy mum and we are generally racing from one thing to the next so I am one person who appreciates the convenience of an Ipad or kids apps on my phone on the ready for when tantrums start in the middle of restaurants or sibling fights in the back of the car. I am not throwing this out completely, I'm all about realistic remember and I prefer to stay sane than be stubborn about my kids not using technology. Besides as they get older they will only play with them at friends houses so at least I can teach them some boundaries first.
So technology aside and yes you have the go for it to keep you from losing your hair from me, let's look at play for kids. I'm focussing here on the ages 4 to junior primary school (year two). I include school because these ages of junior primary still come under the early childhood years and as you may have noticed, advocating play is kinda my thing! Just because kids start school, it doesn't mean they stop playing. No age does really, but I'm just going to look at this age range for now, especially while my kids are in it. The types of development I mentioned in my last blog still can be learned through play but now that these kids are attending a more complex learning environment, it changes a little. A teacher whether preschool or school will still plan activities based on social, emotional, physical (gross motor) and fine motor development but I'm going to show you how you can as well.
The awesome thing about this age is that you can say to your kids 'go and play' and most of the time they will. I love that I can say to Jack (6) and Eva (4) to stay away from the kitchen or leave me alone for 15 minutes while I have a coffee or get things organised and they will. They can go shower and get dressed on their own, play board games, play together or turn on a movie but they didn't just suddenly know how to do this, I had to put in a bit of time and effort to get my 15 minute coffee breaks. If you have your older kids still hanging off your leg and demanding all your attention like a toddler would then have a look below at my play suggestions so you can start squeezing in a coffee break in between homework and dinner. This time instead of breaking it up into the type of developments your children learn, I'm going to list types of play with a couple of suggestions.
Imaginary Play - If you don't have dress ups your kids can still do this type of play. Remember when I said to read a book everyday, well this is huge in developing imaginary play and I will also add that movies help this as well. Eva puts on her Elsa dress and she is letting it go all over the house. Jack runs down the stairs with a towel pegged around his neck and they are off entering another world saving friends and finding treasure. Kids can play like this for hours and it is my absolute favourite type of play. When I am feeling mum of the year I will sit and watch my kids listening to their conversations and having a giggle at the drama and the lines they have taken from books and movies. They are learning through their play and ticking off a bunch of developmental areas doing it.
Toys - Even though the toys become few and are played with differently, these are still a great learning base for kids. Building blocks and following instructions to creating a Lego master piece this covers problem solving skills, gross and fine motor development which is also a fabulous exercise for their handwriting. If you don't own any board games then next birthday or Christmas invest in some. We have Technology free Tuesdays where the TV stays off, the Ipad is shelved and the board games come out. I love watching Jack and Eva both get along and then if they have a squabble (generally cheating issues) they talk it through and not always with my intervention. Games make a really great reading activity, something you probably wouldn't have put together but think of all the games you know and how much you have to read. Games like Trouble, Uno, Snap, Memory, I could go on for ages but all these are excellent number and word decoding games.
Craft - I don't like stereotyping but I have had enough experience to get that girls prefer this way more than boys but just because you have a house full of boys it doesn't mean you need to ditch the craft stuff. You just have to think a little to work out what they like. Jack hates craft yet Eva pretty much does it all day and I am constantly off to the cheap shop restocking my supplies or sneakily pulling bits off the creations I sort (throw away) through. Every school holidays I take Jack and Eva to the cheaper department stores where they have an abundance of craft sets. While Eva is in heaven and choosing between hundreds of things she could make, I point Jack towards some really cool activities painting and building dinosaurs, planes, kits etc which he will then do over a week even though it actually takes about 30 minutes to do in one sitting. I'm not forcing him to do it but I want him to keep the option especially when I just want some quiet time in the house or it's raining and they are about to watch their fourth movie in a row. Keep cards and rip up wrapping paper, buy cheap scrap books or the cheaper recycled paper reams and that way you aren't' spending a fortune. We buy lots of craft things for birthday presents as well for an extra idea.
Bits and Pieces - I'm adding this thanks to my kids giving me the idea. If you have a jar of coins, buttons, shells anything like this then give it to them to play with. My kids found a tin of coins from around the world so I tried to get my teacher on and explain where they were from but all they were interested in was making patterns, sorting them and creating shapes with them. They spent most of the afternoon doing this and it almost annoyed me that while I would do this in my classroom all the time I didn't think to do it with my kids.
Cooking - I have as much non-love for doing this with my kids as painting but it is such a good activity especially on a horrid day outside. I always do some kind of baking in the week to put in the kid's lunch boxes and would prefer to whip something up quickly myself but Jack and Eva love cooking so I swallow my pride and let them cook something once a week as well or help me. It's a great maths lesson, good learning to read in following recipes and instructions and extra language and social development talking about the ingredients and the topic of food and healthy eating. Jack is so into everyday foods and sometimes foods that he is learning about at school, so I'm trying to be good and encourage that at home where it is the most practised.
So I have just touched on some of the more obvious types of play in older kids but as you can see play doesn't have to end and they can still do so much learning through their play as well. If you don't like some of the app games there are on your Ipads etc there are some really good one's that are all learning based and still fun. While I believe there is a time limit and place for technology play I don't disapprove of it. I think it teaches patience, sitting still for periods of time, fine motor skills and problem solving.
Set yourselves up some play schedules, it doesn't have to be written down but teach your kids for a half an hour or hour every afternoon it is playtime. Whether it is inside or outside, one activity only or moving or merging a few, let your kids continue to learn through their play and give yourself some 'you' time while they are learning, developing and exploring.
© The Realistic Mum
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