Increase the play potential of your toys
Is your child bored of her toys?
Are you tempted to buy something new to add some excitement to the toy box?
Before you take out the credit card, take a look at what you've already got.
Can you help your child to see her toys in a new light, to see new combinations and possibilities? Think about how poets and artists use juxtaposition to provoke new ideas. Wooden blocks in a puddle, dolls living in an old boot instead of the doll's house, playsilks in the bath.
Don't just look in the toy box. Have a rummage in the kitchen, the bedroom and the recycling.
What would happen if you put blocks in the doll's house, silks in carboard tubes or masking tape and craft materials alongside the wooden railway?
Your child would be inspired.
The unusual combinations would spark new ideas and her play would spin off in unexpected directions.
She would become more creative and more resilient, better able to see the fun in everyday objects and to play independently.
What would happen if you mixed a balance board, some timber off-cuts and a guinea pig house? You'd have a unique small world scene and months of open-ended play.
How do you get more fun from fewer toys?
I thought I'd invented this idea but my wife tells me it's called 'shop your wardrobe' and that it's been around forever. So I'm not as smart as I thought I was. But it's still a good idea!
Here's a quick way to come up with some interesting combinations:
Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left, list all your toys. You don't have to write everything down, just broad categories. Blocks, figures, magnets, dolls, vehicles, etc.
On the right, list some of the more interesting objects you have around the house that are safe to play with. Trays, pillows, kitchen roll tubes, masking tape, natural materials.
Now draw lines connecting toys to those objects.
You might come up with something like this:
- A marble run made of playdough
- Paper costumes for wooden figures
- A masking-tape road on the hallway floor for toy cars
- A small world inside a cut-down cardboard box.
- Acorns and conkers to 'cook' in the play kitchen (not for the under 3s)
- A playsilk curtain for a cardboard theatre.
A simple way to extend play is to mix toys with natural materials.
Eventually, you want your child to come up with the ideas herself, but it's OK to play together and offer suggestions to begin with.
At this point, you might decide you still need a toy or two to plug the gaps, but I hope you can see that it's not how many toys you have that's important but what you can do with them.
A good imagination beats a bulging toy box every time.
Even something as simple as mixing peg people with a sorting board can inspire new ideas and send play off in a different direction.