Becoming a play engineer – tip #7.

Kids play the best when toys are set up, ‘inviting’ them to play.  Once your children have enough language to play imaginatively, you can really invite them to play with a weekly theme throughout the house.  Whilst it takes that bit longer to set up, you will be sure to get many more play hours from your little ones.

So!  What will your theme be?  It didn’t take me long to pick animals + hospital/doctors/vets.  Master nearly4 loves animals and he and Master nearly 2 are both into doctors at the moment.  And of course, an animal theme is not too unfamiliar for Master nearly2.  Pretend play – your child’s occupation will give you more information on the different skills pretend play consists of.  Language means play will give you more information on the development of play and how language goes hand in hand.

Setting up

This is where you think about ALL the items in your house that might come under this theme.  So I went for everything animal, from our Aussie Animal cards to our baby dinosaurs to our farm animals.  And then you add in everyday items that would be useful props for the scenes, such as ribbons for bandages, cotton wool for the babies, wooden dish rack for the operating table/sick bay and pipe cleaners for their own imagination.  And then you can drag out any other props that might be useful, such as adding our cardboard box bus stop/airport and our Little People plane and bus for transporting the sick/recovered animals between the hospital and the wild.

Because I had so many sets of toys out, I created mini scenes in different rooms of the house.  The next thing to do was to introduce the boys to each scene and promote some different play actions, to get them started.  I also assigned doctor and nurse roles (big brother and little brother roles really!).  And then you sit back (or race to the kitchen or clothesline) and reap the benefits of excited play!  Here are some of the benefits..

Benefits of themed play

  • The story is halfway there, so the kids don’t have to create one from scratch (ideal for the younger ones)
  • You can easily give many hints at new play actions.  I have used: ‘go and check if bull’s fever has gone’, ‘I think panda needs his bath now’, ‘giraffe might be ready to go back into the wild, but before you put him on the plane, remember to check his heartbeat and temperature’, ‘the baby dinosaurs will all need a feed and why don’t you ask your brother to help you take them back to the wild in the bus’, ‘it might be time to help bull to get to sleep, it’s hard to settle when you have a fever’, ‘nearly your bedtime, go and give the night doctors their handover, what they will need to do while you are sleeping’….  I have even rung their pretend phone (an otoscope) as an anonymous caller letting them know of a sick hippo out in the wild.  Next thing they are receiving calls from each other!
  • There is a variety of toys out so different ages are still catered to
  • A child can walk into any room and make up a mini-story there, OR play between several scenes in across different rooms

Here are some photos to share with you all!

broken legs, cut on the tummy, the flu....

broken legs, cut on the tummy, the flu….

Special Care Nursery.. for dinosaur babies.  Also like special care where Master nearly4 spent a few weeks..

Special Care Nursery.. for dinosaur babies. Also like special care where Master nearly4 spent a few weeks..

'The wild'

‘The wild’

back to the wild....

back to the wild….

'the ball forest'

‘the ball forest’

so the injured bush animal is...

so the injured bush animal is…

'X' marks the spot...?

‘X’ marks the spot…?

What will your play theme be this week?  Be creative and drum up some excitement! Guaranteed it will pass over to your kids and you will have a fun week 🙂 Heidi