Adults look at toys as something to occupy the attention of children. However, toys play a much more important role in children’s development, if grownups learn how to use them as opportunities for creative fun. Getting down on the floor and playing with an infant or toddler one-on-one is the easy part. What is more difficult for some parents is using their imagination for creative play. When your toddler holds a plush elephant in one hand, while playing with corrugated blocks, and looks at you and asks, “What kind of elephant lives in this castle?”, how do you respond?
1. Elephants do not live in castles!
2. You need to build an animal pen and not a castle.
3. Castles are for princesses only.
4. This is a princess elephant named Grey Beauty and she now has lots of room to roam around the big castle rooms!
The first three responses shut down creative play. The last response encourages the child to continue using her imagination. However, the fourth response also sets up a scenario in which the parent becomes a play partner and important to the imaginative process.
Triggering the Imagination
Many busy parents struggle to find time to play with their young children. Eventually, children learn to ignore their parents or have trouble communicating with them. You cannot always plan a schedule down to the last detail, but there should always be time for imaginative play time with toys.
Toys are triggers for the imagination. When you help a child construct a building out of architectural wooden blocks or help stack blocks, it is a wonderful time to encourage the child to run with his or her imagination. It is important to not continually use negative words that discourage using the imagination. Every time you say, “you can’t do that” or “that is the wrong color for a tree” or “the letters are out of order”, the effect is to discourage creative play time.
In reality, is there really anything wrong with painting the sky green when you are a year-and-a-half old? So what if the magnetic policeman toy figure is wearing the magnetic fireman’s pants! Instead of saying, “That is all wrong, honey”, you can say, “This policeman is ready to help people and put out fires!”
The same principles apply to all ages of children and all toys. When reading a baby book, do you make animal noises or talk with an accent to elicit giggles? Have you ever sat at a toddler table and sipped pretend tea? When is the last time you pulled a little wagon full of imaginary friends to visit your son in his room?
Parents who do not join in the imaginative play should not be surprised when their children begin to ignore them at playtime. No one likes being told “wrong” and “no” all the time. No one likes hearing time after time, “I am too busy!”
It may be necessary to browse some high quality toys that make it easier for you to enjoy creative play with your young child. That is okay because kids love to play with everything from activity gyms to pedal cars. The important thing is to make time to play and to let your imagination roam free.
Gotobaby has unique baby toys for both boys and girls in various age ranges and you can be assured of quality and satisfaction guaranteed.